I remember my first experience with Lent– when in middle school, my then girlfriend showed up to school with a black cross on her forehead and the immediate question of — why did she have her makeup smudged on her forehead like that? It made no sense to me. And then her talking about giving up sweets for 40 days, well, I had no clue what that was about! Growing up in the non-denominational world, fasting was common, but we didn’t follow some type of calendar of when we should do it. It normally began to occur whenever some televangelist or traveling prophet came to town and quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 —
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins, and heal their land.”
and told us that God had told him if we fasted then “revival” would come in ___ days/weeks/months. Of course, we would all do it, fail it, and then blame ourselves for God not moving.
There was also the Daniel Fast which was a mix of a health diet and fast based off of Daniel’s diet in, well, the Book of Daniel. That was a fad big time in my youth group days and you would add some type of daily devotional in there with it. I remember one time attempting a Fast of 20 days to ‘get myself right with God’ and after 10 days, breaking down and eating some Captain D’s (for some reason, the Captain called during fasts), and feeling completely distraught.
I had failed.
In the last few years of learning to become a catholic Christian, I have learned that part of this journey is failing, and failing well. You see, I don’t know anybody who has kept a perfect Lent in staying away from what they gave up. Lent is more than not drinking Diet Coke, or giving up sweets, or even following the strict Orthodox fasting guidelines.
Lent is about preparation.
As Christians, those who follow a man who was in all senses of the word was defeated by the world’s strongest empire on a cross and failed in the eyes of his follower, failure and defeat are part of our spiritual journey.
Does that mean you shouldn’t try or work on following what you set out to do? God forbid!
You should, however, understand that his yoke is easy and burden is light and that His Grace is sufficient even in your failures. Know that the great Saints that have walked in this soil and partaken of the sacraments before have failed and are cheering you on, going to the Father of All Mercies on your behalf!
Be Strong! Have Courage! And Fail gracefully this Lent. Strive to live into God’s grace that is in your life that both gives you strength to move forward and picks you up when you fall down!