Cheeseburgers on the Altar

I ate a cheeseburger this week. In the grand timeline of my life, there is nothing extraordinary about that. I have eaten a lot of cheeseburgers in my time. I plan to eat a lot more of them.

I gave up burgers for Lent this year, so the cheeseburger I ate  at Whole Foods on Tuesday (pictured above) was the first one for me in more than 40 days. It was good—very good. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. It is not Biblical, strictly speaking, but it has become an important part of tradition for millions of Christians around the world.

I didn’t grow up with the tradition, having been a Baptist for most of my life, but I enjoy the tradition of Lent almost as much as I enjoy no longer being a Baptist. Traditions are important to people because they create a common bond. However, the point of Lent should not be giving up something for Jesus, it should be a transformational act with a purpose in your life.

How is giving up burgers transformational? It’s all in the perception. If you were a heroin addict, giving up heroin for Lent would not be a sacrifice because you really should stop doing that anyway. Giving up burgers is different. You have to eat. However, you should not be careless about how you eat. I ate a lot of burgers because I love them and they are convenient. I took them for granted. So, I gave them up for 40+ days to focus on paying attention to what I was eating.

Tradition without purpose is ritual. I am not a ritualistic person. The late, great Warren Zevon gave some simple advice just before he died. “Enjoy every sandwich.” If you are rushing through your day and not even paying attention to what you are eating, are you using your time wisely? Jesus shared some of his most intimate moments in life over meals. There is a reason we celebrate the Last Supper and not the last board meeting. Sharing a meal with friends is the simplest way to show love for others.

I took my 40 days this year as a lesson instead of a sacrifice. God doesn’t demand sacrifices, he demands transformations. Paying attention to my food was my spiritual lesson this season. How about you? Are you enjoying your sandwich?

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