A Status Update on Lent

We’re less than a week into Lent, and already I’m having trouble keeping my Lenten “resolutions.”

As a kid, I did what most of my friends were doing, give up candy. Or chocolate. Or sweets. One year I gave up potato chips.

It was hard, but knowing I only had to do it for six days eased the pain.

Back then, it was common practice to relax the Lenten “penance” on Sundays. I’d lie in bed on Saturday nights, watching the clock for 11:59, then race downstairs and break into that bag of candy.

It never tasted better!

But as I’ve matured, so has the Church. We’ve come to realize that giving up sweets or alcohol or even Facebook (yeah, some people do that!), then eagerly waiting for Sunday, isn’t exactly what Lent is about.

Lent is that period of 40 days reminiscent of our Lord’s desert fast, when at the end He was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1). It also recalls the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert for 40 years (Nm. 14:34). Catholic and some Protestant churches urge members to become more like Jesus, giving up sin and turning our lives over to Him — not just for 40 days but forever. It’s all about conversion.

A tall order, huh?

So imagine my distress when I looked at the calendar and realized how often I’ve “broken” my Lenten intentions!

You see, this year I decided I’d try to root out my growing tendency to be critical and complaining.

When things don’t go my way, I grumble like the Israelites of long ago. When other drivers make “stupid” moves, I criticize. When politicians play “fast cash” with my hard-earned dollars, I complain.

I’m not proud of it. I don’t like it, and I want to root it out. Lent seemed like a good time for that. After all, “experts” generally agree it takes 21 days to break a bad habit, and Lent would give me nearly twice that.

I envisioned myself becoming kind and loving, tolerant and patient. More like Jesus.

So far, I’m failing. Miserably.

A guy in a pickup nearly slammed broadside into me yesterday, and I complained and criticized. Loudly.

Election signs and ads are popping up everywhere, and nobody seems to have a clue how to fix what everybody knows is broken. So I grumble.

Psychologists say the more automatic your bad habit is, the harder it will be to break it.

Small comfort.

But I’ll keep pushing toward Easter. A few misses along the way won’t derail the process.

And even if I can’t totally eradicate this habit during Lent, at least I’m conscious of it. And that’s really the first step.

How are you coming with your Lenten observance?