When I was in grade school, I thought the season of Lent was there to make everyone miserable. We would sing these morose songs at Mass, like “Ashes,” and I remember sitting at the dinner table and imitating the sullen, deep voice of our organist singing the “depressing” (as I deemed them) lyrics: “gifts not fully given”… “dreams not fully dreamt” … “spring has turned to winter” … “sunshine turned to rain”… and so on. I remember weeks upon weeks of going to the Stations of the Cross and chanting and repeating the prayers over and over again. Some kid would inevitably faint from all the kneeling and being continually engulfed in incense. No one liked going to Stations of the Cross. We were told to give up sweets. Was there anything uplifting about all of this?!
Now, I imagine my teacher tried to tell us the uplifting message at the end of all of this spiritual preparation — Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead — but when you’re a kid, all you can hear is “Ashes” and all you can see are people fainting and all you can think of is Easter candy.
When I got older, I began to “see the light” when I realized, personally, how giving something up helped me to foster self-discipline so that in giving up some things, like sweets, I could build my strength to give up bigger things, like gossiping or other sins. I began to see Lent like going to the gym: it’s not desirable but usually, when all is said and done, not regrettable.
Now, as an adult, I see Lent as deepening my relationship with God. Don’t get me wrong: I still am not jazzed about the Church looking barren for 40 days or the pang of hunger when fasting, but I try to find greater meaning in what we’re doing.
These past few days, I have really thought about how giving up Facebook is deepening my relationship with God. I’ve noticed that I have more time to pray (particularly in the mornings) and less time to be roped into debates on Facebook where I am, sometimes, well, less charitable with my words. I still haven’t had an “aha” moment in answering this question beyond that, but it’s been on my mind.