(Photo by William Biersack)

by Katrina Avila

This morning I sat at Jazzman’s with a few friends before my class. I vigorously stuffed my face with my daily egg and cheese bagel—and burned the roof of my mouth in the process—while my friend calmly and serenely ate her fruit cup. In that moment, I realized that I haven’t exactly adhered to my Lenten sacrifice today. Eating an egg and cheese bagel on top of the workout that I didn’t do this morning is in no way helping me get healthy.

Lent is a time to make sacrifices in order to better ourselves and, ultimately, bring us closer to God. Before this Lenten season, I thought that making a sacrifice meant giving something up. While this may work for some people, I’ve recently realized why I haven’t stuck to my sacrifices in the past.

In previous years, I simply gave things up. One year, it was chocolate. Valentine’s Day broke me. The next, potato chips. Last year, I gave up snacks. Those were 40 very grumpy days. Before Ash Wednesday rolled around this year, I promised myself that I would do something that I had never done before—at least, something that I had ever done with a religious purpose behind it. I promised that I would get healthy and take care of myself.

I know it doesn’t exactly seem like a sacrifice right away, but think about it. Getting healthy requires two things: eating right and exercising. The first part requires me to combine, essentially, all of my previous Lenten sacrifices together—there will be no potato chips and there will be no chocolate. There will, however, be snacks; they will just have to be of a healthier variety. Before I eat anything, I have to think to myself, “Does eating this help me stay on track with my sacrifice?” If the answer is yes, I eat. If the answer is no, onto the conveyor belt it goes.

The next part of my Lenten sacrifice actually feels like a sacrifice. I’m sure that many of you are no stranger to the early morning alarm clock pestering you to get out of your nice comfy warm bed to hit the gym. On most days, I hit snooze and roll back over, only to wake up an hour later, rush to get ready, and head to Jazzman’s for that bagel I was talking about earlier. Instead of feeling good about myself at the end of the day, I feel like a lazy piece of you-know-what.

While I have been better with getting out of bed and bonding with the elliptical in the mornings this Lent, I am certainly not doing it nearly enough. My bed and I are best friends. My pillow and I are inseparable. As terrible an idea it may seem to part with them in the morning, I know they will be there later in the day to welcome me back with open arms, no questions asked. The gym, not so much. If I don’t go in the morning, I simply won’t go. Part two of my sacrifice requires a little extra effort to accomplish. Who am I kidding? It takes a lot of extra effort. On those mornings, I think of what I’m trying to do and why I’m trying to do it, and I guilt myself into rolling out of bed.

Each day is full of sacrifices. I am happy to make some, and others not so much. At the end of each day, I sit down and reflect. Did I do everything I could to make sure I furthered my cause today? Did I rationalize eating anything I shouldn’t have? Did I put in all the effort I could have at the gym this morning? If the answer is yes, I can go to sleep satisfied. If the answer is no, I think of what I can do to do better the next day. I’m not perfect and I’m going to make mistakes. That’s something that I’m going to have to accept; however, it’s also something that I am striving to change throughout this Lenten season.

While I am not a religious figure in any official standing, I know what has worked for me in the past Lenten seasons. More importantly, I know what has not worked for me, and I have figured out a way to fix it. For me, it’s all about thinking things through more thoroughly and asking self-affirming questions. This year I’ve shed a new light upon Lent. If you’re struggling to keep up with your sacrifice, give it a shot. Look at it in a different way and change it up a bit. Look at Lent from a new perspective and you just might follow through.