You know the people who love Lent?
The ones who go on and on and on about how much they love it, who are first in line for ashes, who seem to embrace their sacrifices as if it’s their only joy in life?
Those lively individuals who have metaphors comparing Lent to things that aren’t Lenten at all, who seem to walk around with a smile, and who seem to have no problem whatsoever with penance?
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not one of them.
Oh, I get that Lent’s important. Even that it’s needed.
But I still hate it.
I hate it the way I hate vegetables and dental cleanings and giving up three hours of free time for a meeting.
I hate it for how it interrupts me and how it stretches me and how it forces me to face difficult inner situations.
Which is also why I love it.
Without Lent, I would just cruise along, not necessarily oblivious, but not necessarily aware. I would miss growth that may just be what gets me closer to heaven on my personal path to holiness.
I can’t even imagine how unbearable I would be as a person without Lent. I mean, I’m pretty unbearable now!
Lent isn’t just an opportunity to cleanse my spiritual palate and get into a better set of habits, though it can certainly help with that. It’s not my chance to lose my taste for sweets or push myself to start some new physical regimen, in spite of the fact that it could, in fact, accomplish those very things.
Instead, Lent’s my chance to step closer to God by losing what’s blocking my way.
The three pillars of Lent—fasting, prayer, almsgiving—work together to make me closer to the person God wants me to be. As I reach (and fail) and stretch (and fail) and fall (and fail), I progress, tiny step by tiny step, along that path of holiness.
And, by God’s grace, I’ll end up farther along at the end of Lent than I was at the beginning.