Well, Holy Week is here at last, after a very challenging Lent. I have managed to avoid animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays, but it has been a real struggle. This is less because I love meat and dairy, and more because I find myself eating more processed foods and not getting enough protein to really feel good, despite all my best efforts. So Wednesdays and Fridays have been pretty tough.
In addition, I found myself eating an awful lot of these really great cookies from Trader Joe's- these new maple leaf creme cookies. They are basically maple Oreos in the shape of a maple leaf. I was delighted to discover that they didn't have dairy in them (they have a hescher from the Orthodox Union identifying them as kosher dairy, but when I read the label, there didn't actually seem to be dairy products in it, so I assume they are just made on the same line as other products that do have dairy in them), and dismayed to realize that this would probably mean that I would end up eating a lot of them during Lent. Which I did. Because I am weak, and they are delicious, and technically do not violate the fasting requirements of Lent.
Which brought me to another thought. I am pretty sure that while maybe not violating the letter of the law, those cookies definitely violate the spirit of fasting. They are delicious, terrible for me, and honestly, I enjoy them a lot more than I enjoy having milk in my cereal instead of almond milk. And Christianity isn't really about the law is it? I mean, it's not about the law in the same way that Judaism is about the law- Judaism is ALL about the law! Some Jews go to school for years and years and years just to really learn the Torah and the Talmud and other writings, just so they will know how to best practice.
But Christians are different. For us, the belief is the primary feature, and even churchgoers with only the most cursory Children's Bible (raises hand) story knowledge knows that Jesus scolded the Pharisees for upholding the letter of the law but not the spirit.
So, in the interest of the spirit of the law, I made a decision about Lent for next year. While I definitely believe that eating no animal products makes for a more mindful day where you remember Lent with every meal you plan (and complain about, in my case), I think that I would best observe Lent by following a more Roman Catholic model, and giving up something that I really, really enjoy, something that it is hard for me not to eat.
Next year, I give up sugar. I actually think this will be MORE challenging in terms of resisting temptation and sacrifice, and will actually be better for me on both a physical and spiritual level. You guys, I LOVE sugar. LOVE IT. And I can't stand artificial sweeteners, so I won't be going there, either. I have given up things for Lent in the past- Coca-cola, alcohol, but never have I tried sugar. I tried chocolate once, but I only made it about 24 hours.
Giving up sugar will have the added bonus of not alienating my non-practicing husband, who abhors Lent because he knows it means lots of vegetarian chili and lentils for dinner.