The following is a piece of writing/journal I came across from a couple years ago about my first experience with Lent. Apparently not much has changed. Maybe next year.
This morning I failed at Lent. But it wasn’t just this morning; it was the two days before it as well. Okay so I lied, it was five days ago. Five days since I have returned to all the same vices I so admire, breaking the promises I promised to God.
This was my first year participating in Lent. Growing up as the good conservative protestant boy I was, I always thought Lent was a cheap religious tradition (Not unlike the Easter Bunny) for Catholics and people who wore red, pointy hats. To my surprise I found out that Lent is actually for anyone and not just people who sit in confession booths and refrain from using contraceptives. The church I belong to talked it up a bunch and I was actually quite excited about the forthcoming challenge of 40 days of sacrifice. Now, being the good American that I am as well, I resolved to do it all. I was going to give up everything: Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, masturbation, T.V., murder, bank heists, food, all physical touch with those of the female gender, and basically, everything I turn to throughout the day to self-medicate and help me get through life (which, also to my surprise, turns out to be quite a few things) I was also going to eat healthy, run, read my bible for three hours a day, pray like a monk for four hours by candlelight vigil, and conclude my day with seven hours of silent meditation. I was sure that by the time Easter rolled around I would be the most spiritual person anyone has ever met. I would be in the best shape of my life and be well on my way learning how to levitate. I was sure that I was going to have miraculous visions throughout the Lenten season through which God would reveal His plan for my life and all His greatest mysteries.
To my surprise, none of this happened. I made it two weeks. I got discouraged. I got depressed. I stopped caring about life. I stopped caring about God. First I drank coffee, because I was tired of having headaches and feeling like a zombie from Dawn of the Dead, and then I smoked a cigarette (because…well, because coffee and cigarettes just go so well together!) After a few days of this I eventually gave it all up and was reduced to a near state of suicidal depression. I had failed. God was angry at me. My life in waste, my temple in ruins. I returned to all the same old vices that give me comfort and help me make it through the day. Lent was done.
Or so I thought.
“Good job Levi, way to hang in there!”I told myself (shouted really.) “Two weeks, way to go!”
After failing miserably, I proceeded to recoil into a fetal like position and numb my brain watching Arrested Development. I did my best to forget what a miserable Christian I was and my prodigal son bastard tendencies. Eventually I gave up my self-pity and picked up The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. And, nothing that spectacular happened, but I remembered that God loved me. He loves me even though I failed horribly at Lent and was like a blind grandson playing baseball, who you cheer for because you have to, though silently you think, he should just give up.
And I continued reading and almost cried and continued with Lent. Still with all my same old vices, but with the knowledge that God loves failures, and burn-outs and ragamuffins like me and that is what the good news of Easter (not actually a cheap holiday tradition) is really all about.