Want to experience God’s love?
Give up pizza and chocolate

I never really fully understood the purpose of “giving up” something for Lent.  As a child, growing up in the Catholic religion, I just simply did it because I was told I was supposed to do it, never really grasping the intent of this long-held ritual.  However, I guess in some way, from the perspective of a child, I approached it as a personal challenge just to see if I could do it, but always wondering why God would want me to give up pizza or chocolate, which were my two favorite “things” as a young child; and, therefore, the two things that I must forgo during Lent.  Because, as we all know, in order to truly be in God’s favor, you must give up something that you love, some object or experience that would cause you to suffer in the absence of that particular thing.  And as a very small child, pizza and chocolate had grown to be my “loves” in the universe of my short and tender years.

Fast-forward now 40 years later, while I understand the history behind the Lenten season, I still remain unclear as to the purpose of giving up “something you love” in the 40 days that fall between Ash Wednesday and Easter…or at ANY time.  At this point in my life, it has become abundantly clear to me that I experience more joy, more peace, and more of a knowing Who I Really Am when I align myself with that which is serving me and to change what is not.  Why would God desire, or actually command, me to remove experiences from my life that bring me joy?  Must the path to God be traveled on a road of suffering?  Why have we imagined a God who manipulates love in such a way?

Lent is not the only example of how we, as a society, have bought into an idea of forgoing and suffering as a path to The Creator.  There are Yogis who live in the Himalayan Mountains who devote their existence to a life of renunciation, abandoning material comforts and even food in their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.  It is commonly known that Catholic priests refrain from not only sex, but they resist even entering into a romantic relationship with another based on a belief that it will allow them to better serve and please God.  People who observe the Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist faiths abstain from eating pork and shellfish because of beliefs they hold about what God wants. Those who belong to the Jehovah Witness faith will not celebrate birthdays, nor will they even receive a blood transfusion in medical emergencies, because of beliefs they hold about what God wants.  Many women in the Pentecostal faith will not cut their hair because of beliefs they hold about what God wants….just to name a few.

Now, an idea that I could more readily embrace would be engaging in 40 days of placing intention on the things that foster our ability to realize and actually experience our Highest Selves and our ever-present connection with God.  I can remember no time in my life where the deprivation of something I love has led to an experience of knowing God.  I can, however, recite numerous occasions where allowing the things I love to flow into my life abundantly most certainly and vividly created a deeper understanding and knowing of Who I Am and what my relationship with God is.

This idea of suffering has long been misunderstood and misused as a way to “win” or “earn” God’s love.  We are pained to see the visible suffering in the world around us, but we are quick to voluntarily suffer in an effort to seek approval and acceptance from the one source of unconditional love that we actually have.  Why do so few embrace an idea that we do not have to do anything to receive God’s love?  Is that thought too frightening?  Is that concept too easy?  Is that idea too risky?  Would we place that expectation on our own children in order that they may experience our love?

After all, we are making it all up here, aren’t we?

Why are we making it up in a way that feels so hard?

(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation.  She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • Therese

    There was only one redeeming aspect for me giving up things for Lent, and that was being given the opportunity to examine just what it was that I “loved” and for what reason. For instance, if giving up pizza and chocolate allowed me to see that I didn’t really “love” them, but, rather, was addicted to them, it could also cause me to examine what was behind the addiction. Unfortunately, this is NOT the concept taught to children.

    However! as to sacrifice being a mandatory thing to experience closeness to God, or Goddess requiring suffering to get to heaven, and all of the other control myths built around our concept of Divinity and Love, I am in complete agreement. Cultures accepting that suffering is karma, or their way of atoning for past sins is part of the paralysis of our earth today.

    T.

  • Miche

    Lovely, thoughtful article. I am in total agreement and it helps me reflect on reasons why/how we feel that suffering will bring us enlightenment. I too grew up in the Catholic faith. Thank you for sharing this message!

  • Erin/IAm

    In Our stages of evolving…of trying different ways of understanding & relating to Life…Comedians are blessed with limitless fuel, yes? :)

    I, too, Am a ‘Catholic Survivor’…The rituals were interesting, indeed. I vividly recall a day in a private Nursery School when a nun snatched a bologna sandwich from my mouth, and with a rather disdaining look, handed me a cheese sandwich (UGH! I hated cheese at the time!) just because it was Friday. My buddy next to me got the bologna because he was not Catholic. This makes zero sense to a 5 yo. Then the ‘levels of ‘Hell’ were condensed in their ‘Renew project’, & George Carlin begged an answer to “What happened to all those folks in Limbo serving time for beef jerky?” 😀

    I also thought it horrible that my dinner table seat was directly under a huge crucifix…a sad man, nailed to boards & dead, & nailed to the wall above my head…Gross! But he was diligently decorated with palm fronds each year, thumb prints were smudged on foreheads…and Yea! Colored eggs & candy for breakfast Easter morn…Woohoo! :) I don’t recall a victorious end to any Lent time, tho…I put stars on the calendar whether deserved or not…it was just a fun thing to do.

    Thankfully, We have moved inward & can giggle of this stuff Now. However, even Our Declaration of Independence noted 237 yrs. ago, “…and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Tough bunch, We Peeps! Makes one glad to be a wafter of Seeds of Change. <3

    Fun food for thoughts, Lisa…Thanks, again! :)

  • Marko

    “Why are we making it up in a way that feels so hard?”

    I think it’s simply a byproduct of a primitive consciousness. The Catholic church is so crazy & is several centuries behind. It’s so unfathomable to see this even now!

    Of course as our own awareness and awakening occurs we see how silly this all is. Part of the beauty & pain of awakening is seeing how un awake much of the world still is.

    Of course the remedy for that is, to have love & compassion on our primitiveness & with this loving compassion,– it will in turn reflect this energy & touch those receptive & even not so receptive with these brilliant vibrational frequencies.

    Magically,
    -M

  • Steve J

    I too am a Recovering Catholic. Did the 9 First Fridays, gave to the foreign missions and served as an Alter Boy. Always followed the rules. But never felt good about myself due to self imposed guilt, Original Sin and other bits of religious hokus-pokus that was drilled into me under the threat of eternal damnation. What a bunch of baloney!! The obvious motive of it all is control and money because the “Church Leaders” are full of fear and live in a reality of “Not Enoughness”. What else would explain the MILLIONS of Islamists and other NON-Catholics put to death by THE Church in God’s Holy Name! Absurd and outrageous in the extreme. Anyone who could believe that the whole Catholic scheme is God’s will is truly a child of a lesser God. But to each his or her own. Thanks to CWG I am now on a different path. Think I’ll have another slice of that Chocolate Pizza :-)
    Wow, that was good! I feel so much better. With love for all,
    Steve J

  • ARMANDO C. DAEL

    True! But old paradigms die hard. Those who adopt the new paradigm as you explain it will just have to be patient, talk about it every chance we get, and then perhaps more and more people will see that the new paradigm makes a lot of sense. Then maybe even a “handful” of people with this new paradigm can create the “tipping point” that will enable the rest of humanity to embrace LOVE (yes, including pizza and chocolate) because LOVE is who God is, and LOVE is who we too are!

    Words, however, are very tricky. They are among the least effective tools for communication. So let me amplify a bit what I understand by “love.” Love is when every thought, word, action (or inaction) of mine is LIFE-ENHANCING (versus life-diminishing) to the people I love…which means everyone…myself included (here’s your chocolate and pizza again)…WITHOUT EXCEPTION!

    And made as we are “in God’s image and likeness,” we are invited (not even required) to love one another the way He loves us…without conditions, without requirements, without judgment, without condemnation.

    When most of humanity adopts this perspective, we can look forward, at last, to lasting peace for the human race…hopefully within our lifetime.

  • Richard

    Maybe we could change this ritual in something in where we do not give up but give away something we love. This so we experience ourselves Who we truly are

  • Terri

    Thank you for sharing that Lisa because I have felt that way for a long time. I never understood the part of giving up the one thing you love most or the no meat on Friday. I believe that God wants us all to be happy in the same way I wish my children to be happy, and I totally agree with you that I’d not ask my children to do anything to earn my love.

  • mewabe

    It’s rather simple, the whole thing is a neurotic struggle, which is why it is so universal in humanity (neurosis is universal).

    I am going to try to explain it clearly, it is not that easy.

    Most children do not get what they need from their parents, which is unconditional love. Their own parents did not get it, and on and on through the previous generations.

    They grow up having learnt, from their parents, that love will only be given when certain conditions have been met, whether it is cleaning one’s room, doing well in school, or milking the goat.

    This has historically shaped children’s psychological and emotional blueprints, their understanding of who they are, and the nature of all their relationships.

    On the other hand, when parental conditions are not met, children have learnt that the outcome is pain (disapproval from the parents, anger, judgment, punishment).

    I do not think that these are controversial statements, conditional love and approval are obvious and universal (pressures from well-intentioned parents towards their children can also be unconscious, by the way, but no less damaging).

    So…is it ANY surprise that, from these DEEP psychological and emotional blueprints, people grow up to PROJECT this blueprint unto all of their subsequent relationships, including their relationship with the divine????????

    In order to make REAL and LASTING, PROFOUND change, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE CAUSES BEHIND THE CAUSES, and get to the FIRST cause.

    The first cause is neurosis.

  • mewabe

    “Would we place that expectation on our own children in order that they may experience our love?”

    Yes Lisa, it is done every day in small but cumulative ways by nearly EVERY parent (if he or she honestly look at his or her behavior and expectations, whether they are verbalized or not…most of them are).

    Extremely rare is the parent who has no expectation towards his/her child, of any kind, and does not exercise the dual, mighty weapons of approval/disapproval to steer a child in the “right” direction or make him or her “behave”.

    That’s conditional love, pure and simple.

    A parent, in order to feel good about himself or herself, might put it this way for her/his child:

    “I LOVE YOU but please stop setting your bedroom on fire”.

    However the “I love you” part of the sentence won’t matter much, what will stick in the child’s mind is “my mom doesn’t like it when I am myself-when I set things on fire, so I have to change in order to please her, or in order that she stops harassing me.”

    “I have to meet his/her expectation” in order to either be loved or to merely have some peace.

    Whether these expectations are reasonable or not, from the parents perspective, makes no difference to the child, in terms of the nature on conditional love/approval, and HOW IT SHAPES THEIR PSYCHOLOGY.

    Furthermore, this is not new. It has been done for thousands of years, so the damage is profound, it is TRANSGENERATIONAL.

    And that IS the very origin of the problem (see my previous comment).

  • mewabe

    Another point:

    Most religions were created long ago….at a time in history when the very idea of conditional love had not entered human consciousness, and at a times WHEN CHILDREN WERE PUNISHED VERY HARSHLY-CORPORAL PUNISHMENT-WHEN NOT MEETING PARENTS AND OTHER AUTHORITIES’ EXPECTATIONS, in other words when nothing existed BUT conditional love/approval.

    So how could anyone be surprised that such religions taught conditional love from their God?

    Humanity has projected its deep neurosis unto everything, and has made God in its own image.

    And the fact that we do not understand this shows that we are not out of the woods yet!