The problem with Lent is that it is forty days long. I mean, really. I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but forty days is forever. I have complained repeatedly of this absurd length to my Catholic friend and asked her earnestly why Catholics are so mean! I was all fired up about Lent when it first started, but I can’t stay fired up about anything for forty days!
The problem with Lent is that I gave up dessert, and I don’t think I really realized how much I love dessert. I want dessert so badly all the time now, and even though I’m abiding by the Catholic rule that you break your fast on Sundays, that blessed reprieve is definitely not enough.
The problem with Lent is that I hate denying myself. I live in a culture where food is always at my fingertips. I can eat whenever I’m hungry, and even when I’m not. The idea that I would stop myself from eating something I really want to eat is simply ludicrous in such a privileged society. Even my five-year-old doesn’t get it. He says, “I just don’t know why you would do that.” And he even asked, “How does that help God?” The idea that denying myself would be helpful to me seems not to have occurred to him. Frankly, I’m questioning the logic myself these days.
The problem with Lent is that appetites are like some cancers. As long as you let them continue unabated, they won’t bother you much. But if you try to fight them…ooooooh, boy. Watch out! Because they bite back. And it’s not just with dessert. I want to eat everything in sight right now. I will probably be the first person in the history of observing Lent to end my fast weighing more than when I started.
The problem with Lent is that the problem is not really with Lent. The problem is with my flesh. It simply does not want to die. And it seems like on all fronts now, I’m experiencing a bit of a spiritual drought. For about two weeks, I have not had the desire to practice any spiritual discipline. I don’t want to be silent. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to read my Bible. I don’t want to get up early to spend time with God. I don’t want to do any work. I don’t want to serve anyone. My motivation level for each of those tasks has been hovering around 0%.
Now, it is not totally bleak. Nature continues to draw me to God, and this is a wonderful time of year. The world has been transformed into bright, beautiful shades of green, and flowers have been popping out everywhere. There is this one particular type of cherry blossom tree that is currently in full bloom, and it is simply magnificent. I can’t decide if its blossoms look more like popcorn popping, or a firework exploding; regardless, I’ve never seen a stationary plant seem more in motion. Whenever I pass them, I just have to stop and stare at them in awe. They just look like an explosion frozen in time. Marvelous.
Other than through nature, however, I feel nothing spiritually. My senses are deadened. I feel no encouragement from reading Scripture, no inspiration from prayer, no insight from silence, no joy from service. It kind of reminds me of Captain Barbossa as he rants to Elizabeth Swan about the curse’s effect on him (in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I will cite that reference for the five people in this country who may not have seen that movie.) “I feel nothin’!” he exclaims. Same deal here. All I feel is my flesh raging against all forms of self-denial. I have hit a wall. And so I have had to ask myself:
Should I keep doing these disciplines, even though they don’t seem to be helping me at all? Should I keep reading my One Year Bible, even though I’m getting nothing from it? If anything, I think the book of Numbers is actually taking me farther from God. Plus, I have gotten seven days behind. Should I try to catch back up? Should I force myself to get up early, even though it seems not to be helping me to live a Spirit-filled life? Should I keep observing Lent?
To paraphrase my son’s concerns, how do these motions help God? Or me, for that matter?
Is this not all descending into legalism?
I have more, but I think I’ll stop here and ask what you think. Basically, my options are to grit my teeth and force myself through, or to stop these motions until some desire returns.
I actually have chosen a course and experienced some results, but I’m genuinely interested in what my brothers and sisters think about this conundrum. Do you ever experience spiritual droughts? What are they like for you? How long do they typically last? What do you do during them, and what do you do to get out of them? Also, have you ever tried to observe Lent? How did it go for you?