Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reflections on Lent

Lent is far less romantic than it at first seems. In the weeks leading up to Lent, it takes on a dramatic aura. Self-denial, self-sacrifice, penance, lessons about grace...it all seems quite dreamy.

Then boredom settles in. Every day doesn't really begin or end in a fierce battle through which I emerge triumphantly more self-disciplined or honest or patient. Mostly, I just learn to irritably endure the dull self-inflicted annoyance of not getting my way on a regular basis.

Worse, I begin to simply ignore the commitments that I set for myself, shrugging off extra time on social networking sites or the consumption of a stolen piece of candy as petty misdemeanors.

Then comes, perhaps, the most irritating part of Lent. I learn that I'm not really as great as I imagine. I'm actually far more lazy, far less productive, far more gluttonous, and far more critical than I like to admit.

Lent holds up a startling mirror through which I can see myself. I may not be a criminal but I'm not a saint either. I am, I discover, a petulant child who is happy and compliant when I get my way and stormy and sulky when I don't.

I grow weary with my petty sins and disgusted at my inability to tow the line. Lent doesn't make me better or more lovable. It simply shows me how dingy my faith, how tremulous my walk, how unlovable I am.

But Easter is coming anyway.

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

And therein lies the gift. Unloving, I'm loved. Undeserving, I'm blessed. The great lesson is that trying is in vain and my efforts are futile, but that peace lies in rest.

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