Lent is already halfway over and is anyone dragging like me? The days of self-reflection and self-discipline seem like too much at junctures like today when I’m ready to throw in the towel and just say, “What’s the point?”
I haven’t been able to keep a Lenten discipline for several years now, but I’m hoping this year will be different.
Not just for the sake of saying I’ve kept it, but because I know it is good for me. Really good, in fact.
For the past couple Lents, I’ve pledged to start something new, like adding more exercise into my life, and have found myself failing miserably.
While the guilt of not doing what I said seemed to nag deeply in me, nothing changed.
I’ve not been a great example in the practice of being self-focused during this 40-day (or 46-day if you count the Sundays) period of preparation of Easter.
But, feeling some new gusto this year, I opted to go back to the traditional “give something up” practice for Lent again.
As I thought of what I might choose to do, I tried to be more intentional than in the past. What impulsive habit could I give up? What could I withhold that might actually make me think about the larger purpose of Lent altogether?
I chose to give up Diet Coke.
Seems simple enough, of course. Almost comparable to the popular “I’m giving up chocolate” for Lent idea. But, for me, it’s not.
Giving up Diet Coke, as a non-coffee drinker, is helping me understand how dependent I was on caffeine to get through the day.
Giving up Diet Coke is helping me make more intentional choices altogether with my eating. Giving up Diet Coke, I know, is making my kidneys happy as my water consumption has hit a lifetime high since Lent began.
Today, I am really craving soda. I’m tired of drinking water all the time. I really can’t wait for Lent to be over. I’m ready for the “normal” patterns of life and enjoyment to return.
But for those of us on this Lenten journey together as a people of faith, we’re not to the finish line yet.
Palm Sunday is still a week away. Now is the time when the “joy” of the discipline really kicks in. What might this season be seeking to teach us?
Of course, living in Lent is greater than drinking or not drinking soda, giving up chocolate or fasting on Fridays.
It is about Jesus and spending this set-apart time growing closer to him.
I always tell my congregation, who about this time start asking for “more joyful music” or “less depressing Scriptures,” that we must stay the course if we want the joy of Easter to be ours.
For this reason, I appreciate the wisdom of this word from Pope Benedict XVI. Though I may disagree with him on many social issues, I hear such grace in this description of the season:
“Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life… Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters.”
So, as we all keep living Lent – even if we’ve already fallen off the discipline wagon and are preparing to get back on – let’s seek truth with the time of Lent we have left.
Truth about ourselves and ultimately truth then about God. It will all be worth it soon enough.
Elizabeth Hagan is senior minister of The Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C. Other hats she wears are as a preacher, author and executive director of Our Courageous Kids, a foundation dedicated to orphan care.