For centuries, those of the Christian faith, including a few Oklahoma Christian University students, choose to give up an indulgence in their lives as part of the Lenten season.
Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, is a time for Christians to focus on prayer, fasting and growing closer to God. Although Lent is traditionally celebrated by Christian Catholics, it is a tradition for sisters Marki and Raena Crouse within their Protestant family.
According to Marki, Lent began as an annual tradition for the Crouse family when they moved to Colorado in 2004. Marki said the family noticed the popularity of Lent among their new neighbors and decided to experience it themselves.
“Where we’re from is primarily Catholic, so all our friends would give things up for Lent, so we did too,” Marki said.
This season, the sisters chose to give up soda and eating at restaurants, with the exception of a family function for Lent. Marki and Raena said their mother has played a major role in encouraging both them and their siblings during this period.
“My mom taught us if Jesus can give up his life, then we can give something up for 40 days and it’s not going to kill us,” Marki said. “If He can make the ultimate sacrifice, then we can make a little sacrifice.”
Raena said during Lent, each time she remembers what she sacrificed, it reminds her of Jesus’s sacrifice.
“It’s just the constant reminder, when you think about the one thing you gave up, it just constantly reminds you the reason you’re not doing it,” Raena said. “It’s a daily impact for 40 days.”
According to Raena, some critics associate Lent with a “diet” when participants choose to give up certain foods and drinks. However, Raena said these critics are missing the point.
“From the outside looking in, maybe for the people who do feel it’s just a diet, it’s the personal growth with you and Jesus Christ that matters,” Raena said. “Regardless of what other people say, however you’re devoting your time during Lent will help you.”
Although Lent is not required for her family, Marki said she encourages more students to participate in Lent. She said giving up something is not as difficult as it may seem.
“If you think not having a chip for 40 days is hard, Jesus was apart from God for six hours,” Marki said. “It was the worst time of His life. Whatever it is, it’s not that bad.”
Amanda Cooper has observed Lent since kindergarten within her Lutheran family, which according to Cooper, was when she first understood the concept.
This season, Cooper decided to sacrifice fast food, and during the 40-day period Cooper also made the commitment to pray for a different person each day. Cooper said Lent is one of her favorite times of the year because it allows her faith to grow.
“I consider it a celebration,” Cooper said. “When we are tempted it’s a reminder how Jesus did it for us, and how we can do it for 40 days.”
According to Cooper, last year she gave up Netflix and devoted her free time to God. Despite the challenges she faced, Cooper said last Lent was her most rewarding season.
“I did it, and I was really proud of myself,” Cooper said. “It was awesome because during the time where I normally would be in my bed watching Netflix — binge watching Grey’s Anatomy — I was reading my Bible.”
Cooper said more Christians, no matter the denomination, should experience Lent in some capacity. The act of sacrifice, even if it is something small, allows Christians to develop in their faith, Cooper said.
“I think it’s really awesome when [non-Catholics] give something up for Lent because I don’t think it has to be religion based,” Cooper said. “I just think it’s the concept that you can give something up for Jesus for 40 days.”
According to Cooper, Christians do not just have to give up certain foods for Lent. Rather, Cooper said Christians can honor Lent by other means.
“You can pray for someone every day, or go and serve at a different charity every day,” Cooper said. “Just intentionally going and making an effort for personal growth in whatever way you do it. You sacrifice in all different ways, not just in not eating your favorite food.”