Over the years, as I grew up in the Episcopal church, I often heard people talking about giving something up for Lent. Therefore, in my mind, this season became known as a time where Christians go without something because that’s the tradition. It wasn’t until last year that I finally grasped the meaning of Lent! This was an appropriate time though because I needed to strengthen my own relationship with God and gain clarification on several Episcopal traditions that I had been accustomed to witnessing for years without a firm understanding. I decided that I wanted to observe Lent and not only go without for forty days but challenge myself to be more cognizant of a specific habit as well. My Lenten discipline was to go without consuming the flesh of any living thing (becoming a vegetarian) as well as forcing myself to be more assertive in situations where I might otherwise shy away. This was very difficult, but I committed my whole heart, body, mind, and spirit to experience what Jesus had to go through while he was out in the wilderness and constantly tempted by the devil. Well, I definitely felt different after officially observing Lent for the first time because the bond I have with God is now stronger than ever. Oh, and I’m a pescatarian now. Every time I ate meat after that I felt conflicted, so I decided to make what was only a brief practice a permanent change.

This year I wanted to choose a practice that was going to challenge my usual habits, so I have given up sugar. And, when I say sugar, I don’t just mean desserts and sweets, but anything that has sugar added to it as well. As for what I added, I am going to try and make a sacrifice each day by, for example, giving up time set aside for myself to be with others. So far, it’s been quite challenging because I’ve seen so many sweets and items with sugar in them since Lent started that I am forced to wonder what foods exist to eat without this crystalline compound as an ingredient. All in all, the experience of waking up each morning, and reading the Lenten meditation booklet I have in addition to saying a prayer for those people who have been placed on the daily [prayer] schedule has been amazing for me spiritually. This routine allows me to keep in mind my commitment to my Lenten discipline. Lent to me is a time to be inspired through momentary adjustments to every day actions. It may seem like a long journey, but that’s only because we are without what we thought we might have never been able to live without. Now, imagine how Jesus might’ve felt…

-Brandon Stuart