The True Meaning of Lent

Even though the language I am most comfortable with is English, my first language was French. I spoke my first English words when I was 9 years old, and to this day, I still remember those first words. We had moved from Alma, Quebec to Ontario and didn't yet have a place to live. So my parents rented a room at the Sleepy Time Motel in St. Thomas, Ontario, where we stayed for a couple of weeks. The motel was just on the outskirts of town. Just a short walk down from the motel was a chip wagon selling hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, and so on. I wanted a hot dog, so I asked my Dad for some money and the English words I would need to ask for my treat. I practiced that line over and over again, reciting it out loud and in my head as I walked toward the chip wagon. Those words, "I want a hot dog with everything on it" still echo through my mind to this day.

Those types of early language memories can be powerful. Consequently, there are still a lot of French idiomatic expressions floating around in my head. I still occasionally say "Close the light" instead of "turn off the light". Which brings me to Lent.

This is the time of year when Christians give up something they really, really like for reasons they don't actually understand but are told they should from childhood and into adulthood. For most people, it's seen more as an endurance contest, to see whether they can make it 40 days without taking a drink of alcohol or eating bacon double cheeseburgers. Kids are started on this road by suggesting they give up chocolate or Saturday morning cartoons. It's a last man standing game where the person who retains their sanity after having gone without, oh, let's say bacon, is the winner.  Sure, there's a religious component there. Lent is about, uh, well, you know, some churchy thing. Oh, here . . . let me Google if for you.

What, you ask, does all this Lent stuff have to do with speaking French? Well, in my mind, I see "lent" which is the French word meaning "slow". Lent is that 40 day period when you are frankly sick to death of winter and you are barely hanging on waiting for the days to get longer and the weather to get warmer. Right around the time of Lent, or lent, if you will, time seems to move so slowly that pulling out your own fingernails starts to seem like an interesting passtime. 

Interestingly enough, for those who practice the religious ritual of Lent, the meaning is often the same. It's a long, painful, and s-l-o-w 40 days while you wait, barely hanging on, for the taste of an ice cold beer. Or chocolate. Or bacon.

Or a hot dog with everything on it.


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