I do not know if Bridget Jones is religious. Actually, I think she is pretty far from it, what with her dressing as a prostitute for a Sunday party and blaspheming at the first opportunity.
Nope, for Bridget, religion is more about tarts and vicars.
I am not one to push my religion on anyone, but I do celebrate the Easter season, bunny tails and all.
It all starts with Lent, and this is what my March was all about.
For forty days and forty nights, Jesus made his way through the wilderness, tempted by the devil to turn his back on God. Jesus never faltered and continued on in his ministry to spread the good word. His altruistic path led to his being betrayed, his dying on the cross, and his resurrection, all for the forgiveness of sin.
We all got a fresh start.
In this way, the Lenten period is a time of self-reflection, a time to think about the temptations in our own lives and how to honor the Christian spirit. To follow in Jesus’ footsteps is no small feat, and no (wo)man will ever meet the task. Still, it is a time to repent what wrong we have done and to prepare for the coming of Easter.
For the record, Lent is 46 days long, starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. Sundays in Lent are not counted towards the “40 days” because they are considered “mini-Easters” in and of themselves.
Anyone 14 years and older is expected to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. In addition, Catholics between 18 and 59 years old are supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Pregnant women, nursing women, and chronically ill people are excused from these “rules”.
Still, most people take it a step beyond not eating meat and fasting on the holy days.
Since I was six years old I have given up candy for Lent. Giving up something that tempted me (what child is not tempted by candy?!) seemed on par with the temptations that Christ faced in the wilderness.
Of course, it doesn’t even compare, but I was six, people!
The idea is to fast not only from food but from things in your life that distract you from God. By giving up something you want, something you crave, you show that you are strong in spirit, that you can stand tall for what matters in life.
As I grew up, I expanded on my fast of candy, because let’s face it, candy as a temptation for an adult is not nearly as end-all-be-all as it is for a child. Today, I give ALL sweets, desserts, and processed sugar the heave-ho. The amount of temptation is considerable, especially living with children who LOVE to eat goodies in front of their mom, but the bigger challenge of Lent is not giving up something, it is doing something for the greater good.
Some people take something on for Lent in lieu of “fasting”. Giving time and energy, committing to others, and even to bettering yourself takes an active effort that giving up and avoiding temptations simply does not.
This Lent I vowed to take half a million steps. For every 100,000 steps, I would commit to doing something charitable. I have already collected food for the needy, donated to a cause, and helped a stranger. Serving others. Now THAT seems on par with what Jesus would do.
This challenge may not sound “hard” to many of you, and it may even sound self-serving. For me, however, it is taking serious grit to stay on track. My job, including my writing, requires me to sit most of the time. Averaging 11,000 steps a day, about 6 miles, takes conscious effort for the life I lead, or at the least the one I have led to date.
The half a million target has allowed me to provide self-care I too often deny myself. The truth is I tend to give the bulk of my energy to others, leaving myself depleted with less and less to give. Counting my steps is forcing me to take time for myself too, to remain active and fit. It lets me recharge in a way that makes me stronger and builds my stamina so that I can be there to help others when they need me most.
The best part is that I get to reward myself with acts of charity.
Now everyone’s life is a little bit better.
Lent is a meaningful, if humble, time for me. I try to get a bit creative each year, for personal growth. The trick is to stay kindhearted and to continue good habits the whole year through. Maybe I do not take on the formal restrictions a Lenten “fast” requires after those 46 days, but Lent gives me a chance to focus in on what matters. It is a renewal that I look forward to every year.
Let’s not pretend though that I will not be up at midnight on Easter morning with a Cadbury creme egg in hand.
I always enjoy one.
Bridget will probably be right there alongside me.
Update: I reached 500,000+ steps as of 4/13/2017, two days ahead of schedule.