Lent. The season of sacrifice. Forty days to give something up for God. As a girl who grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, the purpose and meaning of Lent has been drilled into me for quite some time now. I kind of viewed it as a "Jesus suffered and now it's your turn" time of year. When I was a kid, I don't think I quite understood exactly what I was doing every Lent when I gave up candy or Cokes, knowing that in forty days I would binge on whatever it was I sacrificed the minute Easter rolled around. Then, as I got older, I started to view Lent as more of a "New Year's Resolution" opportunity. Give up something I know is bad for me and try to keep it up. Hence, I still gave up sweets or Diet Coke. One year I even gave up processed food (a MUCH harder, and more expensive, undertaking than one might imagine).
However, this year I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to do for Lent. The idea of sacrifice is such a negative one. It denotes pain and suffering and unhappiness. I mean, come on, Jesus' sacrifice involved DYING. But this morning during my daily "browse the Internet for news/check Facebook" time I ran across this quote about sacrifice:
“The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him.” Mahatma Gandhi
Smart guy, that Gandhi. For some reason, this little snippet gave me so much clarity on the meaning of Lent. Sacrifice is an opportunity to fine tune our lives. It opens up the door for a greater happiness. Jesus suffered and sacrificed a LOT, but then he got to spend eternity in Heaven and save humanity. I'd say that's a pretty awesome "peace and joy" payoff. I am almost positive I will not be saving humanity any time during the next forty days, but I think I can find a little peace and joy myself. When I started reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project in January, I discovered that she, too, saw the value in making sacrifices in the name of greater clarity. Whether it was a sacrifice of time, by adding something to her life, or a sacrifice of a longheld belief, her sacrifices brought her peace and joy. My little "happiness project" resolutions have fallen to the wayside recently, so that is definitely something I'll be picking back up this Lent. I still haven't decided exactly what I'm giving up, but I am happy to say that I now, for maybe the first time, feel like I have more of an understanding of exactly why I'm giving it up. And I would say that's a very positive first step.