As I sit here at my computer I am looking out at the tree lined street on which I live. I can count about 12 trees of various types and heights. All but the Pine were completely lifeless ten days ago. Now every single one is bursting with life and I can see gorgeous shades of green, white, pink, red and even some gold.
Believe it or not, the sudden outburst of Spring is the fiercest temptation yet to betray my Lenten fast.
After all, Lent is such a winter season. It begins with that lifeless and sobering proclamation, “From dust you came, to dust you shall return.” The Lectionary passages build on that theme, full of somber darkness, from week 1’s gospel passage about temptation and John the Baptist’s beheading to week 4’s poisonous serpents in Numbers 21.
But every Lent, right around week 5 that somber sobriety gets old and seems quite out of date, especially as winter is fading quickly. And as winter gets old, so to does my Lenten Fast.
Every single Lent I usually have forgotten I was fasting about now. That is one of the ironies of this church season. Every January I begin thinking about what to give up. And I always try to pick the most difficult thing, that thing that is not only most creative, but most central to my life. After all, the idea of fasting is to give up something you will dearly miss. That way, when you long for it you can redirect the longing towards God. Therefore, giving up something arbitrary is pointless.
And yet despite trying my hardest whatever I gave up in February seems quite nonexistent in March. Those things which seemed so integral to my life a month ago are now barely remembered.
Yet therein lies the temptation, because it is a lot easier to take back up something arbitrary than something more weighty.
With warmer weather and the fast getting old, it is easier to betray yourself accidentally, to just flick on the TV or eat that one piece of chocolate or drink that one sip of coffee or whatever it is, simply because we forgot we were fasting it. After all fasting is for winter and Spring is blooming outside my window.
Next week, Holy Week, I will double down on my fast, choosing to give up more substantial things like food, running and coffee. That will serve to fight off any other temptation I might be experiencing right now. However, that is next week. This week I am stuck in bed, sick with some concotion of a head cold, allergies and a stomach bug and those video games are looking mighty enticing, mostly because I am bored.
So instead, I chose to write about all this in the hopes that maybe some of you can relate at all to any of this. If you can, I want to assure you, as a way of reassuring myself, that you are not alone. That seemingly arbitrary thing you gave up which is now knocking at your door can be resisted until Easter puts to death once more the lifeless winter of our souls.
That afternoon, after the sunrise services and baptisms and church breakfasts and family lunches, when you can purposefully kill off your fast, as you turn the TV on or brew a pot of coffee or eat a morsel of chocolate, I hope you feel the Resurrection power anew.
Until then, may God’s grace lead us to the cross.