People give up all sorts of things for Lent. They give up the good, the not so bad, and the bad things. But as far I know, and I remain persuadable, there are absolutely no requirements from the Almighty for any of this self-styled period of deprivation. For while I can understand someone giving up smoking; sugar-filled candies; greasy, cheesy burgers; alcohol, etc, I cannot understand how on earth an active libido-endowed man or woman, for that matter, would honestly give up sex for all of 40 days. It is even harder to imagine the anguish a 10-year-old boy would suffer if his parents deprived him the pleasure of his childhood by denying him the opportunity to play with friends or toys.
Well, I was on the train to work last Friday when I overheard two women talking about Lent and what they intended to give up. Both were Jamaicans, appeared to be close relatives or friends, and both had interesting things they planned to give up for Lent. However, one of them intended to act out of spite just to punish her adulterous husband. The first woman, who appeared to be in her mid-30s, quite beautifully shaped, evenly distributed white teeth and lips so pink and kissable that any man would drool at the possibilities of kissing her. Anyway, she made the point of telling the other woman that she intended to give up eating beans during Lent because of the excess and "terrible gas" she had, especially at night, and her husband was clearly not pleased with the lingering after effects.
They both laughed as only strong and assertive women can. Then the other woman looked to the right and then to the left as though to make certain the way was clear before she made her comment about what she intended to give up. "Well, mi dear, mi giving up sex. Sonny betta go back to 'im wutless woman dem, 'cause I nah give 'im nutten for the next 40 days; no matter how 'hard the wretch beg mi. And to make matters worst, I don't know wha fly up inna 'im head lately or wha kind a juice 'im a drink. But larks, mi cyaan go up to it.. The laughter which ensued reached soprano-pitch, even as the other woman's face was paralysed by surprise.
Yet, she playfully slapped her complaining friend, then blurted, "Yuh crazy, missis? Yuh think mi could go to mi husband wid dem deh fool-fool sinting. 'Im woulda put mi out fas'-fas'." She tried to persuade her friend to rethink the strategy because she could well end up sending her husband to go do more of the very thing she was fussing about. But the woman was adamant that she was going to "serve him a sauce yuh see" and get a little break for herself before she get "body come down". I had to leave the train before the conversation ended, but I can just imagine the other raunchy things that were said between those two women. They made my day, I laughed all day in the office whenever I remembered the utterances.
None of the preceding story is intended to take the significance or solemnity out of Lent. In fact, respect due to all my many Christian friends. Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities, and Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus' crucifixion. I may be wrong, but I think Jesus' sacrifice is sufficient and we are not required to give up anything since He already did that for all of us.
But back to the good things people give up for Lent: I decided to relate the conversation the two women had to one of my best friends and to solicit his opinion. First, being a devout Catholic, he was a little reticent about sharing his views on a matter he deemed too silly to occupy the same prominence as a worthwhile discussion on the relevance of Lent. Nevertheless, he later confessed that his hesitance was intended to mask the embarrassment he continues to feel, since his wife had done something similar to him and how her decision to withhold sex almost wrecked their marriage.
Of course the teasing and jeering went on unceasingly as I asked, "How the hell you mek dat happen man? Did you ask her what options you had to satisfy your desires outside of masturbation? That is damn foolishness! That is supposed to be the toughest punishment known to man... ," and on and on I went. There is no rationalisation for giving up good things during Lent. For, how could someone give up laughter for sadness, happiness for sorrow, or a nice juicy piece of lamb for hunger, and so on?
Yeah, yeah, I can hear my Christian brothers and sisters ruefully saying, "Chris, these are not the things people are encouraged to give up. You know darn well that it is the bad habit and practices that one should part with during Lent." I agree with giving up the bad things such as "bad driving people", selfishness, malice and strife, but we should give them up period, and not wait until Lent to take a 40-day pause only to return with a bigger capacity to do bad things. In the meantime, though, and outside of health reasons, I would advise against depriving one's partner of the pleasure of safe and effective intimacy which includes sex - sex and romance are good year round and are of God.