I really struggle with Lent. This is one of those unfortunate years that I can’t use the ‘I’m nursing/pregnant’ excuse to skip out. The previous Lents in which I’ve attempted to go ‘hard core’ and give up something like soda or snacking between meals or sweets have usually ended with me devouring at least half a bag of semi-sweet morsels in a dark pantry. “I’m just looking for the lentils sweetie!”…nom, nom, nom. Or there was the year I attempted to give up Coke and then my in-laws showed up for a weekend visit with a 12 pack and by Saturday night, six cans were gone.
Maybe it’s because growing up, Lent wasn’t anything but 40 days to shop around for a new spring dress and shoes. The idea of sacrifice being a worthwhile part of Easter prep didn’t really get introduced to me until I converted to Catholicism and started attending the Extraordinary form. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment. I spent the first 20+ years of my life ignoring Lent. Now, around here, it’s all Lent, all the time. If I even think about de-frosting those brownies or indulging in a late night snack, I got the Lenten police all up in my face. “Mama, mama, mama, we gave those up!” or “Honey, do you really need that? Didn’t you eat enough lentils at dinner? Where did those marshmallows come from? Why are you in the pantry?”
I try to go about my Lenten duty with a smile but, more often than not, I’m that dirty faced hypocrite. If anyone asks me how I’m doing, I quickly wind up deluging them with all the details of my fasting and try to gain as much earthly reward and sympathy as possible. I might of actually claimed to have worn sackcloth at one point, I can’t be sure…that was the year I tried to give up coffee.
This year, God has either granted my prayers, or those of my husband, and given me the grace I’ve needed to fast with a little more joy than usual. And He’s made my kids more receptive to Lenten sacrifices too. Don’t be mistaken; none of them are running around saying the Divine Office between episodes of self flagellation. They’re just complaining a lot less about what they’ve given up. Maybe it’s because their Mama isn’t spending so much time in the pantry with that forgotten bag of Halloween candy. Or getting absurdly angry about that backward letter ‘b’ in handwriting, then bursting into tears…followed by running into the pantry.
My husband, who loves Lent (I know, right?), has been very impressed with my efforts but has succeeded in keeping me from getting a big head by his managing to subsist on honey and locust thus far. And I had a friend tell me to read accounts of some early Church martyrs which kind of makes everything in my day much easier to deal with. Just knowing the greatest trial I will face tomorrow will be getting my kids to eat their veggies at dinner without a dessert bribe compared to say, being the main course of some wild animal, is wonderful perspective.
However, Lent isn’t over. I still have four-weeks to go, and anything could happen. I think the return of Christ would be welcome, since any time I leave the house I’m continually reminded, sometimes most painfully, that the world is against me in my Lenten struggle. For example, at my local grocer, it was surely Satan himself who placed the Cadbury Creme Egg display right next to the apple juice aisle. Somehow, I managed not to give in to temptation and perservere. Could it have been my guardian angel who guided me to the rice cakes?
The countdown continues.