My Best Lent Ever: Rice and Beans
One Lent, I did something very drastic. And that ended up being my best Lent ever!One Lent, I did something very drastic. Twas my best Lent ever!
When I was living in Honduras, I was living with three other guys. We were all discerning priesthood or religious life, and we were all striving for holiness.
We would constantly challenge each other to more prayer or more simplicity. More simplicity sounds like an oxymoron, but let me explain. Patrick might have had four t-shirts on his shelf and I asked if he really needed all four of them. He thought about it for a little bit and said, “No, three is plenty,” and gave away one of his shirts.
It was an amazing year because we were all trying to be the best we could be and we were able to push each other, challenge each other, inspire each other, and pray together.
As Ash Wednesday got closer, we started to chat about what we might do for Lent. We were already fasting regularly, abstaining from meat on Fridays, spending our days in prayer or service, and living simply. But for Lent, we wanted to push ourselves even further.
I came up with an idea of only eating rice and beans for all of Lent. A few of the guys decided to join me.I came up with an idea of only eating rice and beans for all of Lent. Some guys decided to join me.
Now, at first, this may or may not sound like a big deal to you. For us, we were already eating rice and beans regularly. The fact is, I loved rice and beans, and only eating that wouldn’t be that huge of a sacrifice for me. The Hondurans knew how to make rice and beans and we were learning too. You add some garlic, salt, onions, and it might not win a contest on the Food Channel, but I loved them.
So, to make it difficult, I made a rule that I wasn’t going to add any flavoring. At the beginning of the week, I boiled a big pot of rice and a big pot of beans. I didn’t add anything (no onions, garlic, or salt… nothing but beans and rice). And that was my food for the week. For each meal, I got out a small bowl and ate my rice and beans, and it tasted like dirt. The only exception was if I was at someone’s house and they offered me food (it was rude to say, “no”).
The thought was that the rice and beans would give me the nutrition that I needed, but without any of the pleasure of eating. It was a big sacrifice.
But what was the point? It wasn’t a diet; I didn’t really need to lose weight while I was there. It wasn’t because I was addicted to some food and needed to break a habit. Instead of eating whatever I wanted, I was reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us and made a small sacrifice of my own. It was a prayer. But also I was training myself in self-control.
When I saw a candy bar, bottle of Coke, piece of cheese, or frankly any food, I wanted to eat it. Instead, I told myself, “no.” I was training myself to control my desires when it really didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if I put salt on my rice when no one was looking, but by fasting in that way I was telling my body that I had control over my desires.
A basketball player shoots free throws in an empty gym when it doesn’t matter if he makes it or not. He does that so he will be ready during a game when it does matter. A trumpet player practices his solo in an empty house and it doesn’t matter if he messes up, so that when he is in front of an audience, he can play it flawlessly.
I don’t tell you about my rice and beans Lent to brag. I tell you because sacrificing in such a drastic way led to the best Lent and subsequently, the best Easter of my life. And that experience was part of the most life-changing year of my life.Sacrificing in such a drastic way led to the best Lent and subsequently, the best Easter of my life.
So don’t doubt the power of self-control and the ability we have to practice it, develop it, and grow closer to God in the process. Making sacrifices will not only prepare you for the future, it might just change your life.
(Read about how I ended up in Honduras for a year)