It’s appropriate that Lent occurs as winter drags on. Perhaps how you’re feeling about the cold, dreary outside matches how you’re feeling about Lent: When will this nightmare be over?
If you have given up something for Lent, you are probably experiencing at least three things:
- You are cranky and desperate. In Stuart Saves His Family, Al Franken plays Stuart, the co-dependent member of multiple 12-step groups (who attempts ½ mile walk/jogs, so as not to overexert himself). In one scene, talking to his desperate sister on the phone, he asks, “You know I normally wouldn’t suggest this, but how close are you to a pound cake?” We’re used to soothing ourselves with the pound cake, and life doesn’t seem fair without our pacifier.
- You are feeling holy and are taking almost every opportunity to tell others what you’re giving up. The minute I go on a special eating plan, I see and then immediately judge every other person who is eating what I was blissfully eating just fourteen hours ago. Or when you start really working out, it’s amazing how you can insert the fact that you worked out that day into almost every conversation. Oh, sorry I’m late to the meeting. Lifetime was so crowded this morning!
- You’re disappointed that you don’t feel closer to God. You actually feel farther away from God than you did on Ash Wednesday, when this whole nightmare began. It’s like we’re all banging our fist against the side of the vending machine, yelling at the M & M bag which is still stuck at the top, disgusted by the fact that we’ve paid in full and are still empty-handed.
And that leads to more questions: Does God even care? What is wrong with me? Would it be totally bad to take a short fast from my fast?
At the end of the day, I appreciate Lent because after a few weeks, I realize that I can live without the pound cake. Lent calls us back into our deeper longings, the ones we get in touch with in those rare moments when the tears come unexpectedly. Lent calls us to return to God, and invites us into the terrifying place where God might actually meet us in our desperate crankiness.
Lent reminds us that God is better than pound cake.
What are you experiencing this Lent season? How are you getting in touch with God?
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34 (TNIV)