Voices: Chewing on ways to be a better disciple

By Shelley Metcalf
Catholic Spirit Staff

As Lent rolled around this year, I asked my children what they were going to give up. We went back and forth for a while about how it’s not OK to give up homework and how giving up brushing their teeth was not an option. Finally, my son suggested they both give up ice cream (they love to have a small ice cream for dessert a couple of nights a week).
My daughter said immediately, “But that’s hard! I love ice cream.” Without thinking first and weighing my options, I said, “If you give up ice cream, I will give up gum.”
They both looked at me in shock because they know how much gum I chew. For good or bad, I chew a lot of gum –– at my desk, in the car, while I cook, etc.
Needless to say, my kids were very happy to take me up on the challenge, probably because they thought I would cave on the gum and thus, they would get their ice cream.
I am sure that most people think this is no big deal, but let me assure you this was no laughing matter. Ask my co-workers and my family about how many times I have said, “This is the hardest thing I have ever done.” I moaned and groaned a lot especially during the first 10 days; I caught myself going into my purse several times, searching for a piece of gum (I gave away all my packs –– there were several –– on Fat Tuesday to reduce temptation). Now, as I type, it’s the 15th day of Lent, and it’s a little easier. 
I have come to realize I’m a big whiner and that giving up gum is not hard! Carrying a cross up a hill is hard; being scourged is hard; being crowned with thorns and spat upon is hard; being nailed to the cross is hard. Jesus did all of this for us willingly and without complaint. Yet here I am complaining out loud to people that I miss my gum. 
We all know Lent is not about giving something up, it’s about getting closer to Christ; I guess I just needed to be reminded of that. So on top of the no gum, I have added more prayer time in the mornings before the kids wake and I found a wonderful Lenten reflection book for us to read as a family at dinner time.
Like I said before, giving up gum is not hard! But change is and so is breaking old habits that have been with us for years. My prayer for the remainder of these 40 days is that God continues to change me in ways that will bring me closer to him and that when the Triduum begins, I will truly appreciate the sacrifice Our Lord made for all of us. I pray I learn to do a lot less whining, and a whole lot more loving and appreciating.