I never knew what Lent was growing up. At least, I don't think I knew. My church growing up wasn’t liturgical and I don’t remember ever talking about it. Perhaps it was there, somewhere in the back of my mind, the knowledge of the forty days of fasting leading up to Easter weekend, but it had no weight of meaning for me.
After eight years of being home-schooled my parents sent me to Catholic high school, an eye-opening experience in so many ways. One in particular was becoming more familiar with the liturgical calendar: feast days, special masses and, of course, Lent. What I saw during those four years didn't give me a high opinion of the tradition. Watching classmates complain about how much they wanted a soda or pizza, but couldn’t because they’d “given it up for Lent” was not a ringing endorsement. When asked if they believe in Jesus they say no, but choose to give up soda for Lent, which ends up being such a sacrifice that they have to complain about it? Really?
The spring of my freshman year at UNH I roomed with a high school classmate. Lent came around and instead of giving up things like pizza or soda she took something on. She read The Purpose Driven Life, it’s 40 chapters fitting perfectly into the 40 days of Lent.
I wish I could say she inspired me to become more aware of Lent and what it can mean to me as a follower of Jesus. But every year Lent rolls around, and it’s half over before I even knew it began. I could beat myself up (I forgot again), start my 40 days now, give up more things to make up for half the time, but that would just be me trying to add my deeds to what Jesus did on the cross. He died so I could have grace. Amazing grace. Grace that forgives my worst actions, as well as my forgetfulness.
I do believe Lent is important. It gives us time to look forward to what is going to happen at Easter. There is nothing more glorious or exciting than Jesus’ resurrection. When He said ‘It is finished’ it really was finished. Done. Forever. No “to be continued pending what you give up during Lent”. Or any other time of year for that matter.
So today, the 20th day of Lent, with 20 more days to go I won’t beat myself up for forgetting Lent again. I won’t try to give up twice as many things to make up for it. I will remember that nothing I do will add to what Jesus did on the cross.
His grace is enough.
It is finished.