Happy Lent?

happy-lentMy best friend, Sara, visited this past weekend, and I could not have been happier to see her in person. Since graduating high school, we’ve mastered the art of a long-distance friendship. Throughout college (her, Brown; me, Fordham), life abroad (both Spain, different times) and our professional lives (her, Pennsylvania; me, New York City), we’ve managed to make it feel like no time has passed whenever we’re together. Though we’re not able to see each other often, our friendship continues to grow thanks to a healthy dose of both giddiness and Facetime calls.

Sara got married last summer, and is my first close friend to become pregnant. This, of course, meant the first time I would have to re-evaluate my normal weekend routine of hanging out with friends at a local bar. So Saturday’s Busted Halo Lenten challenge was particularly well-timed, “fast from going out tonight, and have a night at home with friends or family,” and “pray for people to have more meaningful connections with one another.”  So after a homemade dinner, we whipped up a batch of brownies, settled in on the couch, and talked for hours. Before long, we realized three things: 1) it was 1:30 in the morning,  2) half the tray of brownies had mysteriously disappeared, and 3) we are really, really, lucky.

Since it’s Lent, I couldn’t help but also think about all of the things that Sara’s had to “give up” during her pregnancy – alcohol, sushi, sometimes restful sleep. Or the physical, emotional, and financial sacrifices she’s had to make to bring a new person into the world. Then, I thought about the joyful anticipation she and her husband, Neil, must feel as they look forward to becoming first-time parents, welcoming their baby into such loving arms after months of preparing.

Our lovely weekend together culminated with mass on Sunday, during which my parish priest startled us all by exuberantly proclaiming “happy Lent!” in the middle of his homily. In my experience, Lent is rarely met with such enthusiasm, known instead as a time of dryness, somberness, and penance. Instead, our priest surprised me (and I’m assuming, everyone else), by talking all about joy. As much as Lent is the time for self-reflection and sacrifice, it’s also about preparing for the joy of what’s to come. Like Sara’s growing excitement reminded me, there is so much to look forward to.