I told you last November about how I gave up peanut butter, ice cream and everything else that’s fun in an attempt to stay healthy. Now I have a problem: Lent begins on 10th February. Try as I might, I can’t think of anything to give up – there’s nothing left that I would really miss!
Of course, I’m not thinking hard enough. Since I decided to take Christian faith seriously back in my student days, I’ve lost count of the years in which I’ve kept Lent. Over the years, I’ve spent the forty days leading up to Easter in different ways. I’ve given things up; one year I skipped lunch on Fridays; I’ve taken up a new activity; I’ve studied the Bible with others, and I’ve led discussion groups. But what am I going to do this year?
The day before Lent begins is called Shrove Tuesday, not because we gorge pancakes but because it was when people came to church to be shriven, or to confess their sins. This, says Richard Holloway, a former Bishop of Edinburgh, is a good thing because recognising our failures and seeking and accepting forgiveness for them can more liberating for us than anything else we can imagine.
The Bible says that Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert, thinking about who and what he was, and what to do about it, and Lent is a time for us to do the same. That I can admit that I’m still not quite the person that I would like to be, Richard Holloway would say, is a good thing. Everyone makes mistakes; real tragedy, he says, lies in refusing to recognise them.
So I wish you a good Lent, and look forward with you to the joy of Easter.