I did alright this Lent. I say alright because, while I started off great, I didn't keep up the pace I set the first two-three weeks. Still, I do feel like my "prayer discipline"—and, more usefully, my appreciation for God's presence in my life—got stronger over the past six weeks. No job offers yet, though; must have gotten lost in the mail. Beyond the praying business, I also denied myself somewhat in the traditional fashion, except that instead of giving up meat I gave up Metafilter and Google News. And I did that 100%, even on Sundays. I feel much better for it.
I guess the main purpose of fasting is to bring yourself closer to God. Want to do whatever it is you're not doing for Lent? Oops, oh yeah, I'm fasting; so what's up, God? Some folks also use their fast to stop doing something they wished they didn't do anyways: Lent can be a little extra bit of motivation. Often, though, the things we give up aren't bad in and of themselves, so one bonus of passing on them for a month and a half is that they seem all the more awesome when we come back to them. My brother and his wife went vegan for Lent, and I can only imagine the ham-and-eggs blowout they're going to have tomorrow morning.
I like that kind of thing. In our modern society we're used to instant gratification: we want something, and we can go out and get it (or at least order it online). Don't get me wrong: I think it's pretty handy when you need exotic ingredients or a new raincoat or whatever. But it does have the side effect of dispersing a little bit of the enjoyment of things. Take fruit, for example. The first strawberry of the year—or the first peach, or the first apple—can be a truly amazing experience, but not so much if you've been eating imported vegetables all winter. Not that imported strawberries are all that tasty. I'd rather cycles of deprivation and delight than a constant diet of meh.
In that spirit, my new tradition is to end Lent with hot cross buns made with delicious candied fruit. I eat little enough fruit in the winter—little enough of anything exciting, these days!—that I can share some of the thrill our ancestors must have felt when they broke out the last of the dried apples for the Easter baking. We made it through another winter with treats to spare! Last year it was apricots and pineapple, this year papaya and dates. Yeah yeah, no ancestor of mine has preserved either of those for at least a couple thousand years, but you know what I mean. This year and last the buns had the added bonus of breaking the Passover leavened bread fast as well. Mmm, yeast.
Anyway, there's a glimpse into my twisted game of self-deprivation. What did you give up for Lent?