And for What?

I’ve been waiting six weeks to say this.

Now I can’t.

See, way back at the beginning of Lent, a friend rather provocatively stated his Lenten pseudo-fast. Of course, I immediately needed to mimic it. I found enough dignity to hold off by rerouting my energies into crafting and anticipating my end-of-Lent proclamation: Justin Jones is giving up Lent for Easter.

Genius, right?

Unfortunately, I learned something during Lent.

I came out of Easter backwards. I’m walking away from Easter, on a path leading through Lent. Put more directly—I’m enjoying new life, and realizing what makes it new.

Confession of the day: Despite all the talk about it, I didn’t get the cross. Still don’t really, but I’m getting closer.

And I came at it backwards, really. See, over the last few years, I’ve gotten a better handle on what that new life is about. Not that I am in any way indicating I live it. But I am understanding better all the time—constantly moving toward it. It’s been nice.

It didn’t take long to see the distinction between my mind and my body, however. My knowledge and my doage. So that had to change. But it didn’t. No matter how much I thought about changing, I didn’t. I learned more than seemed appropriate on topics foundational to life. Aristotle was failing me. Is failing me.

Then it all came crashing home.

That’s why it’s called death.

An Experiment in Failure

Today concludes my third observance of Lent. It was my most profitable and least effective observance yet. I think the paradox is the point.

Some of you know the struggle the Lenten fast was for me this year. Too trivial, and it undercut the point of observance; too meaningful and it undercut the reality of the life I’ve been continually granted.

I hit upon my plan after carefully evaluating my purpose in Lent. It was a chance to identify with death in order to better identify with new life. My plan was simple—kill myself. That is, cut away some areas of my life where I catered to desire, traded utility for indulgence.

Stop laughing.

I planned it as an ongoing project: 40 days of quashing indulgence whenever I saw it. A day and a half had produced a list long enough to engage my attention for the next 38.5.

My cold was the first thing to throw it off.

Not even a week in, and I wasn’t indulging to hit snooze—I was just getting the sleep I needed in order to function as a teacher. I had a responsibility to my students. It was a necessity. So was the long shower—it really reduced the physical ravages of the cold.

You’re in a body too. You know what comes next.

I was actually hungry. The snacks were better than a full meal. I didn’t want to indulge. A little sugar would help me focus. It would be rude to refuse such an offer. My priorities had to shift. Others had expectations. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I had planned this time, knowing I would need to relax.

So after forty days, the old me is still alive and well.

I’m starting to get it.