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.
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.