Ash Wednesday arriveth and with it, my annual struggle with Lent. I’ve long resisted the idea that we are meant to give something up for those 40 days, as if me avoiding cookies is somehow a gesture sufficiently dramatic to call up the crucifixion regularly. Right. It just doesn’t make much sense to me as a symbol, particularly when people make a huge deal out of what they’re giving up. If that helps you as a Lenten practice, then good for you, it just hasn’t worked for me.
What has worked (to a greater or lesser degree) is the addition of practices that I think are good for me and bring me closer to the life God would have me lead.
The problem is, I usually want to do everything. I want to be fully alive and am always adding new things to my repertoire, which means that Lent, a ready-made window for new habits, is sort of a self-improvement-junkie’s worst enemy. I have to quiet down the voices that say – I will add all the skills! I’ll re-learn French and spend more time learning guitar! I’ll get back to running every day and write and read new novels and hand-write notes to friends and family! And I’ll cook from scratch and drink only water and, while I’m at it, I’ll save the world! Oh… right… that last part’s not my job.
So this Lent, I will probably try to do a great many things better than I usually do, in the hopes that at least some new good habits will stick. But bigger than that, I will try to be quieter in my soul. I will remember that I am only human, and that, if Christ is the fullest of humanity a person can be, being “only human” is pretty fantastic.
Wishing you a peaceful, thoughtful start of Lent.