Old School Lenten Resolve
by Soren & Ever Johnson
Food delights us and brings us together in so many ways, so it’s only fitting—as the beginning of our 40-day Lenten journey approaches—to think about what, if anything, food has to do with our ongoing conversion.
When you stop to think about it, food—or fasting from it—used to be a big deal in Lent. But these days, we’re likely to choose among different types of Lenten sacrifices and additional actions—with food being just one arena of many.
On the one hand, that’s fine and well. After all, we need more sobriety in every area of life. Maybe this Lent, we need to fast from Facebook, complaining, gossip, Netflix, or shopping.
On the other hand, the shift of focus away from traditional fasting can overlook an immovable fact: eating and drinking are so central to the general mood of our embodied life that a lack of sobriety in this arena can undermine other Lenten disciplines.
There’s a reason why there are over 90 scriptural references to Jesus and food—and why fasting has always been at the center of Lenten practice. For an embodied person, fasting is the best starting point to sobriety—it is the threshold that allows you to then focus more clearly on other areas of life.
And so, it’s only natural to focus our attention on the kitchen, where we are strengthened for work, and also where we prepare to celebrate when the work is done. How we run our kitchens during Lent is arguably pivotal to our family’s journey toward conversion.
Not to overstate it, but if we get our kitchen environment right, our family’s Lent can be a meaningful, shared journey. But if we allow our kitchen to be a free-for-all (as ours has admittedly been in many a season), then our family’s Lent may fracture into silos where everyone is on their own.
As our family sets out on this Lenten journey, we resolve to:
- Leverage the kitchen as the focal point for our Lenten journey. Our kitchen tends to have a fair amount of flourish—flowers, candles, tempting treats in stock, art, and background music at mealtime. During Lent, we’ll put away most such delights and go for a more scrubbed-down look and a barer pantry.
- Make fasting central to our Lenten practices. A scrubbed-down kitchen needs to be accompanied by simple menu offerings. We’ll eat less meat, use fewer seasonings and toppings, and abandon adult beverages and most sweets.
- Approach meal-time with a more sober attitude. Our kids tend to be irrepressibly chatty and jokey, but we’ll try to guide the mealtime conversation more toward our Lenten discoveries, what the Lord is revealing to us, and what the liturgical readings have to say.
Call it an old-school Lent. We’ve both spent plenty of time in visits and on retreats with various religious communities. We have unforgettable memories of being at the refectory table with brothers and sisters in monasteries and convents, some even dating back many centuries in Russia, Israel, Poland, and Italy.
Our takeaway from those visits? They used every minute well. You could feel sobriety in the air. You could see it in the austere surroundings. You could taste it in the bland, lentil soup. You could hear it as a brother read aloud from the Church Fathers during the meal. Discipline was a communal endeavor, and it worked.
As the sun rises each morning this Lent, may the Lord bless you and your family as you begin your Lenten journey with Him. May our families, homes, and even our kitchens, be edifying and renewing places that support our Lenten resolutions and propel us ever closer to the love of Christ!