Poems To Make It Through Lent
Jack Levison, W. J. A. Power Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew
Sam Martinez, Assistant Director of Recruitment
Lent is tough. We all know that. Most of us will end up failing—nibbling chocolate, sipping coffee, sheepishly checking our Instagram. Something will bite us in the butt this Lent.
Lent is meant to be tough. We know that, too.
It’s shin splits ahead of a marathon.
It’s bleeding fingertips during guitar practice.
It’s a sore back from hunching over the computer in search of that elusive turn of phrase (which obviously we’re still struggling to find).
If Lent isn’t tough, it isn’t Lent. Lent is meant to hurt.
The original Lent, about 1600 years ago, was a 40 day fast intended to prepare Christians for Easter Sunday. Christians could eat one meal a day, usually at evening. No eggs; no dairy (which helps explain Fat Tuesday pancake suppers and Easter eggs). No fish. And absolutely no meat.
See? Lent was meant to be tough.
Too tough, apparently.
Eventually, the church relaxed the rules a bit. Fish made its way onto the plate in the Middle Ages, followed by dairy products. Then, from around 800 onward, Christians started eating earlier, around three o’clock in the afternoon. By the 1400s, hungry monks and nuns ate earlier still—at noon. Then, at night, they’d have a light supper of wine and finger foods.
While many Christians still think of Lent as a time of giving up things, it’s also much more than that. Christians are to practice charity—to be more generous. They are to devote themselves more than usual to Christian disciplines—prayer, Bible study, worship.
But at its core, Lent is about fasting because Christians know that bodies matter. Rather than feeding our growling stomachs, we let them growl. Why?
To let out bodies—not just our minds—be our teachers.
Our gurgling bellies help us to stand alongside those who are hungry against their will.
Our empty guts remind us that we are totally dependent upon others—farmers, shippers, cooks, and cleaners—for our daily bread.
Our hollow bowels teach us on a visceral level just how fragile and finite we are.
We are radically dependent upon God for our daily bread. And how we growl, grumble, and gurgle for that bread! Just a slice. Maybe just a crust.
When it hurts—and Lent will hurt—you’ll need something to lift your spirits. (G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly”). So we’ve written three poems just for you.
A Limmerick for Lent
There once was a season named Lent
Whose goal was to make us repent
No chocolate, just fish, for a steak I could wish
Without Easter our days are misspent.
No fun. This is Lent.
My growling stomach annoys
When will Easter come?
Sugar Low Ballad
Come listen to my story ‘bout a time named Lent
Giving up this sugar makes me wanna fume and vent
And then one day while I’m giving up this food
I’m cursin’ God and I’m bein’ kinda’ crude
Sin, that is
So the first thing ya’ know God’s tuggin’ at my heart
I realize then that I need a brand new start
So the church calls out and offers up a feast
Only 40 days and you make it up to East
Er, that is
Raised to life