Every year, I confess on this blog that I love Lent. And frankly, I would be hard pressed to express why, exactly. Perhaps it is the intentionality of it. It intrigues me to choose a fast, a sacrifice, and offer it to God. And lest I think that I am going to someday become some sort of perfect Christian, I always seem to fail at least once or twice during the season. One year I gave up chocolate. Another diet soda. One year Nguyen and I carried the TV to the basement for the duration. The kids were allowed to watch if they were at a friend's house, but in our house we gave it up. I managed to get through the whole season without watching tv until Maundy Thursday, when, between the service at church and the overnight vigil, I stopped in a Chinese restaurant for dinner and sat myself squarely in front of the TV and stayed glued to it for the entire meal. I had, in other words, consciously broken my fast. I had, in some small symbolic way, fallen asleep in Gethsemane. Good thing I had a confession planned for the next day.
I have been spending a lot of time with Evangelical Protestants lately. Most of the women I work with, the board at my organization and most of our donors are Evangelicals. They don't, as a rule, observe the seasons of the church year the way that Episcopalians and Catholics do. I am sure they must find the emphasis on self mortification rather strange, if not downright pharisee-ish. But for me, it has yet to become an empty ritual. For me, it is an invitation to step into the desert with Jesus and lay my heart bare in the glaring sun. My faults and sins will rise to the surface, as they always seem to do. My ego will struggle with surrender. My desire to be perfect will be pitted against the human reality of my imperfection. Spiritual pride will, if I am lucky, be given some time off.
And many many times a day I will cry out to Jesus for help.
I love Lent.