Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bread and Water [A Story About Lent and The Meaning of Sacrifice]

Today I want to talk about something different.

What is the significance of bread and water? It is one of the most basic meals, simply a bread product and a cup of water, an abundant liquid necessary for life. We usually eat many bread products and drink many beverages with varying amounts of water, but in its purest form, bread and water signifies the meal of the common man, or perhaps more of a person who is willing to sacrifice luxury.
This theme of sacrifice runs deep in our world. We value it as a trait of goodness and yet we are wary of committing sacrifice ourselves. After all, it is very hard to sacrifice something, especially if it carries a lot of sentimental value to you. Sacrifice carries a deeper meaning to Christians, where the beliefs rest on a man who died to save humanity from its sins. For Christians, sacrifice embodies the love that Jesus had for us and the willingness He had to lay down His life for us. To be able to sacrifice your own life so that everyone else may live- that is a powerful emotion indeed. This word of sacrifice is spoken plenty of times in Christian life, and especially during Lent (for Catholics), the forty day period in which we commemorate the fast of Jesus in the desert, complete with temptations. Those forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are meant to remember the meaning of sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice(s) we must make in order to live up to that standard. During Lent, we reflect on our lives and try to change our ways. It is a time to look back at our sins, to put them behind us and to get ready for the risen Lord. Usually, people give up something, like candy or movie-watching, to show some sort of devotion to change, to experience just a fraction of what Jesus felt during those forty days of isolation and temptation.

For me, sacrifice is a word that almost seems alien. Sure, I’ve had my share of tough times, but compared to many of the world’s citizens, I have lived a privileged life. My parents had sacrificed many things to give me the power to do what I do today. Without that, who knows where I would be, if I managed to live to this stage. I have seen the effects of sacrifice and have thought about it, but I myself have not had to sacrifice much to live. Maybe this is due to my upbringing (as my parents would say, I’ve had it easy) or due to the circumstances around me (not living in bad neighborhoods or around bad people, for instance). I cannot say that the concept of sacrifice is completely foreign to me, and yet it is not something that has defined me as a person. For that, I am both grateful and guilt-ridden. I am glad that I have not had to suffer as much, but at the same time, it makes me feel as though others suffer so that I may not. And why should I live my life untouched by evil while many more suffer? And yet, I can only thank God for sparing me the anguish that others have to go through. But maybe this is not the correct way to think. I cannot say this with complete conviction, but I feel like I am ready to take my share of the suffering, so that others may rest. One day I will be able to do it with certainty.

So what am I doing for Lent? Unfortunately, my Lents have been more or less uneventful. Sure, I’ve reflected on past life choices, but lately I’ve been getting lazy with the whole “give up something” deal. It seems that nothing I can give up can really convey what Lent is about. I can give up video games. I don’t play them much anyway. Give up napping? Ok, I’ll just sleep regular hours then. Some things are too hard to give up. Stop using my computer? What, are you crazy? No more coke? You’ve got to be insane to even suggest that to me! But of course, it does leave me with a tinge of regret, of failing to meet any sort of life-change, just living the same as I always have. What has changed, really? I couldn’t even give something as simple as such-and-such thing to show an earnest change of heart? Weakness. But this year is different. Or maybe not so different, but I am willing to try to change.

I remember freshman year of college, one of my friends decided to go with a bread and water diet for Lent. At first I thought he was crazy, but when I thought about it, it made sense. Lent is all about sacrifice, right? However, I thought it was a bit too extreme, so I decided that I probably would not do it, but thought the idea was good enough that I would keep it in mind for next year. Of course, that year I didn’t give up anything for Lent, so it was pretty much a failure for me in terms of spiritual growth. Then last year, I started to gather up the courage to go about doing this. However, some of my close friends were concerned about the effects this would do to my health. After all, bread and water are not very nutritious on their own. Not to mention that I, an avid lover and consumer of food, would not be able to function at all with only bread and water for nutrient. After all, with my unlimited meal plan, I ate sometimes 5 meals a day. From that to bread and water was too much. I decided to keep their opinion in mind, and so nothing happened that Lent. But I kept the idea in mind and decided to finally try it out the year after that. And so, my junior year in college, I am finally going to enact this plan into action. What is so different? There are several factors. My meal plan is now a 10 meals a week, due to my own choosing (the reasons shall not be disclosed here). I didn’t think I could make it on 10 meals a week, but surprisingly enough, I can. I have also managed to lose weight, although that’s not the reason for the change. I eat a lot less now, so eating only bread and water should not be such a shock to transition into as it would have been last year. I also feel more mentally prepared and emotionally stronger to attempt to go about this. I feel like the time is right and that, while unrealistic for me to go all forty days on only bread and water, I would able to manage at least a week until I would be forced to switch back to regular food (not to mention I don’t want to let the meal plan go to waste).

So why exactly would I try this? Well, I did think it was a cool idea if I tried it, but that isn’t the main reason. After all, there are cooler things that require less of me to accomplish. However, this idea embodies the core principle of Lent. For me, I feel that I need something as outrageous and bold as this to live up to what Lent means. Not for the publicity, of course. I do not want to brag about it; that is not what drives me. But I sincerely feel that a radical approach can at least show me what I should do. Almost like a tough love kind of deal. This would really help me realize just how much I take for granted, and that is a lot. I’ve always known that I am ungrateful at times, but old habits die hard, so hopefully with this I can at least see with better clarity and try to grow and mature as a person. To tell you the truth, I almost didn’t want to do it because I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it, but I feel now that even though I won’t be able to do it, I should at least try. I’ve come to see that even if I try, and fail, something good may yet come of the experience. I pray that God may give me the strength of heart to follow through with what I am about to do. For now, all I can do is entrust my strength in His hands.

That is it for today, and remember, celebrate Lent with sacrifice in mind. Remember that man who gave His life for you and all of us. Remember your own role in salvation as well. Above all, may you love and in turn be loved. See you later!

***It seems that I will have to start my plans a bit later, since my parents came over the weekend and dropped off some food for me. Of course, I do not want the food they gave me to go bad, as it would be a shame to waste it, so I will have to eat it, delaying my plans for a bit. I will still fast all of today, but also birthday celebrations on the weekend will make this goal harder to follow. Nevertheless, pray for me!

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