Today marks the beginning of the end of the Lenten season. As always, the end of Lent comes none too soon for me. I can handle that one final big push of self-denial before the great Easter celebration begins. However, I ask myself how well I put Lent to use in my own life.
For my non-Catholic friends, Lent is that roughly forty day period that occurs before Easter. Just as there was forty days and nights of rain before the landfall of Noah’s Ark, and forty years of desert wandering before the Israelites were permitted into the promised land, Lent is a (roughly) forty day period in which we are to turn our attention to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And, it’s a really good way to get a guy into a celebratory mood for Easter.
I have come to conclude that we all need Lent-like periods in our lives, even for non-religious reasons. It is never a bad thing to pull back from some of the things that you enjoy in life, even the good things. How often did our parents and grandparents try to tell us that “you never appreciate things until you don’t have them for awhile.”
It has long been a “Catholic Thing” to give up sweets or alcohol during Lent and call it done. I have tried to go farther, adding other things that I have abstained from along with some affirmative things undertaken, like reading the day’s scripture readings and a short bio of the daily saint.
Still, I can’t help but feel that I have had better Lents in years past. It seems to me (if I’m going to be honest with myself) that this year has been more about going through some of the same things I have done in years past, being largely compliant but lacking the kind of spiritual growth I would have liked to have seen. Or maybe that kind of self-reflection is what a good Lent is supposed to bring about.
I read or hear the occasional reference to folks who have done some seriously disruptive things for Lent. Giving up caffeine? Or sweets and sweeteners of all kinds (without carving our exceptions like sugar in the coffee I am not giving up)? Or maybe television? And without resort to the “Sunday loophole”, in which I rationalize that every Sunday is supposed to be a day of celebration instead of deprivation. I have been unwilling to make these kinds of commitments. How much different might my life have been if I had given up anything with a remote control for six weeks or so?
Anyhow, that time is about over now, and come Sunday I am not likely to think about this desert-like experience for another year. Heaven forbid I should give up any of my normal habits or pleasures or vices on my own. Does this mean that I need some kind of self-study-style of mini-Lent for a week or two during the runup to Thanksgiving? If I am thinking about it, it probably does.
I guess my verdict this year is that my Lent has been a mixed bag. I’ve had worse, but I’ve also had better. Which is something that I will mull over for the next day or two. But Easter will rescue me from this kind of introspection. A great celebration is no time to introspect, after all. So, having sort of recalibrated myself, we shall all move forward into an Easter season which I will try to celebrate with moderation rather than excess. Here’s hoping for a happy and blessed Easter to all of you, as well.