Southeast Texans typically observe Lent by giving up a minor vice, like chocolate, alcohol, or social media. The church typically encourages going without little luxuries; such as meat, butter, or cream. While all these are valid sacrifices, it is possible to take the study and observance of Lent a little deeper than going without a treat. The true meaning of Lent is that sacrifice can make room for something better. When you break one habit, you can take on a healthier habit that will ultimately lead to better life and spiritual satisfaction.
Habits of time – Last summer, The New York Times reported that the average American spends more than 5 hours watching TV per day. If you account for work/school, sleep, and self-care, that doesn’t leave much free time. In addition, the average American consumes more than 10 hours of media through their computers, tablets, and smartphones. With our eyes glued to screens, Southeast Texans regularly lose out on time with family and friends, time in nature, time exercising, and time in prayer or meditation and simply just relaxing in our home. No wonder we seem a little stressed out. As a family, choose a screen you will do without. Replace that media time with something that improves family quality time. Try a weekend nature walk at the Big Thicket or on Crystal Beach instead of your usual movie. Commit to a weekly dinner together where phones are off limits for the entire meal.
Habits of consumption – For better or worse, we are a nation that likes to treat ourselves. For example, the average American consumes enough sugar in a lifetime to fill an industrial sized dumpster. That’s a lot of candy and soft drinks! According to the National Institutes of Health, two thirds of Americans are overweight, and 1 in 20 are extremely obese. Sugar is not necessarily “bad” for us, but the rates at which we take it in are detrimental to health. In the Golden Triangle, we take in a lot of empty calories from sweet tea.
When it comes to less nuanced choices, like drugs and alcohol, the results are even more startling. A recent survey shared that 42 percent of teens tried illegal substances. In addition, 78 percent of teens had tried using alcohol. Even legal consumption for adults is up. U.S. wine consumption has gone from 209 million gallons in 1975 to a staggering 779 million gallons in 2015.
Do you think there is no way your child could be on drugs? That is what most parents think.
Whether what we are using is legal or not, we are using in excess. We are making bad choices about our bodies. Set an example for your children by abstaining from sugar or alcohol, and talk to them about choices they may face. Make your discussion age appropriate and set in the present. A study showed that the parent’s attitudes and habits greatly influenced the children’s outcomes. Remember who is watching and grab an apple. This will empower your children to make good choices for themselves later in life.
Habits of waste – Americans waste a shocking 60 million tons of food (nearly 50 percent of all produced). Feeding America estimates that 25-40 percent of landfill waste is food. When you put that next to the fact that more than 46 million Americans go hungry each year, it’s easy to see it’s a problem that needs addressing. We are in the habit of wasting. We buy things that we don’t need, and throw them away.
What kinds of things do we waste in Southeast Texas? Water? Electricity?
What can your family do to cut back a little?
For Lent, try giving up waste. This may sound like an impossible task, but by evaluating where you waste, you can stem the flow to the landfill. Start a compost pile together. Find out where your nearest recycling center is. Bring your own containers to purchase cereal and other staples in bulk at the grocery. Make it a game and recognize family members who come up with creative ideas or make extra effort to reduce waste. Do research – there are lots of blogs and books dedicated to simplifying life. For more impact, volunteer to take unwanted food to a homeless shelter. Partner with a farmer who allows gleaning and take the unsaleable harvested produce to a food bank. Changing your habits from wasteful to resourceful will make you not only better stewards of your home and resources, but better stewards of your community and the planet’s resources.
Lent is a time when fasting or going without leads to spiritual reflection. Take time as a family to break some bad habits and encourage habits that will lead to health and better welfare for you and your neighbors.
Author: Laura Pearson
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SETX Church Guide is your online Christian lifestyle magazine for the Golden Triangle.