I need this Lent more than ever.
Yesterday, I caught myself groaning inwardly when the homilist at Mass reminded us, “We’re only in the first week of Lent.” Only the first seven days? It feels like it’s been so much longer. We’re wandering through the desert with Jesus, and the sand stretches on as far as the eye can see in every direction.
Clearly, I need this Lent more than ever.
Lenten sacrifices take on a sort of ritual sameness as the years go on. Maybe more adventurous people do a better job of coming up with unique and especially sacrificial penances every year, but I tend to fall back on the same old offerings and even the same old modifications of those offerings. Really, though, the sameness doesn’t bother me; after all, the things I give up are genuine goods, so there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them and then letting them go for a time in sacrifice. But it can be disheartening to see how tough those same old sacrifices still are, after all these years.
Twenty-eight-year-old me has as much trouble giving up sweets and movies for 40 days as 8-year-old me ever did. It can be an unsettling thing, learning the silly and decidedly non-spiritual places where you’ve been resting your heart. As a single woman especially, I find I order my life around so many little, selfish enjoyments and rituals. Do I really place so much emphasis on a nice dessert, or an hour with Netflix in the evening? Why yes. Yes, I do, and I even plan my day around these things, building them up in my mind in anticipation. This project or that obligation might take up the bulk of my day, but at least when I get home tonight I can lose myself in something pleasant and comfortable.
Clearly I’ve made very little progress in detachment and self-denial. But I’m slowly coming to realize that Lent isn’t about proving to ourselves that we can get through six weeks without something we love – it’s about putting our love back where it belongs, and being humbled in the process. Our Lord isn’t interested in watching us show off how strong we can be for forty days; he wants us to see our weakness, to acknowledge it, and to hand it back to him.
Mary Beth Bakerwrites a bi-weekly feature entitled Life in the Gap. Mary Beth’s outstanding personal blog, also entitled Life in the Gap, is about a young woman’s daily journey “in between.” In between what? Between the single life and whatever marvelous things God has in store. But far from being about a time of anxious waiting, Mary Beth’s reflections underscore the richness of living in the present moment.