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A journey through Lent


The Art of Sacrifice

A journey through Lent

At twenty-one years old, I gave up guilt for Lent, and never looked back. As a young chef and restaurant manager, giving up any type of food or drink was a good way to get fired. There were still dessert menus to be constructed, cote de boeuf to be roasted, wines to be chosen and everything gets tasted. As a Jewish raised, confirmed Catholic, Baptist Bible-schooled Buddhist, I may be certifiably confused, but my observance of Lent the following years became my time of refuge and solace for choosing where I was in life and where I wanted to be.

Yes, Lent is upon us. No matter what religion you practice or spiritual path you follow, or lead, or choose not to, this time is a perfect opportunity for reflection, fine tuning, and taking the time to make necessary adjustments in your life. This is my opinion. It is also the subject of a book I’ve been writing for years. This is the first of a six week series on various uses of Lent, aspects of sacrifice, and the wisdom of being present.

First of all, I’m not giving up my wine. Bourbon and beer, okay. Wine feeds my soul. I enjoy it with whatever food I’m cooking. I don’t always have it with dinner but I almost always drink it when preparing an evening meal. What feeds your soul? Why give it up? Another defining question, “Does it serve me or is it just a habit?” Do I really enjoy that square of chocolate or fine dessert in the evening, savoring every taste and sensation? Sometimes, we just want to fulfill a different need; close a wound.

I believe that perfunctory sacrifices of chocolate, pastries, meat and whatever the perception of luxury items or practices people make, most often, are just a habit. Mindless martyrdom of no real use, usually forgotten within a week. Even the ensuing guilt is fleeting because it didn’t really matter in the first place. Could it be though, that the guilt is actually the reason for the season? A friend suggested, as I was giving an account of my lapse in acceptable behavior, that feeling guilty only made it okay to do it again. After all, she pointed out, it wasn’t the first time. So what point did guilt, however brief, serve me? I think at that time, it was its own penance and absolution rolled into one. I felt bad and now I don’t. How convenient. As a seeker of religious belonging and spiritual fulfillment, guilt had played a much more controlling role in my life. (Jewish AND Catholic? Are you kidding me?) It was the driver at times, it held me back. I questioned the core of my being. The thing is, they weren’t my questions. They were the questions of religion, compliance and the age old conformity, “Why can’t you be more like us?” The most false, yet effective form of control, by any person or entity is guilt. Unless, you just don’t buy it.

With guilt, comes regret and remorse. I think we are all remorseful at times and that’s not necessarily without purpose. What I know about all of these states of mind though, is they are all tied to the past. Something that no longer exists. Giving up guilt was my first profound step towards being present and noticing the wonderful life I am living and the blessings right in front of me. It’s a process. It’s about noticing when you’re here and when you’re wallowing.

Next week, I’ll discuss the proactivity of Lent. In the meantime, think about what you no longer want in your life, and give that up. Sacrifice the things that no longer serve you and notice the burden of your proverbial cross being lifted.

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