Today as I write is Ash Wednesday. As per tradition, I went to church this morning for the services and had my forehead smudged with ash. And once more, the grim reminder: "Remember, man, thou art dust."
When I was younger, I dreaded the season of Lent and all the forced sacrifice it entailed. Abstinence on Fridays (oh those delicious hotdogs!) and fasting, too. I remember one Good Friday how I waited for midnight so I could raid the fridge for a piece of chocolate I had been eying. I think I missed the deadline by five minutes. So much for self-control.
And now that I'm older? I can't say for sure whether it's gotten easier or harder. Instead with age has come a greater appreciation of Lent and what it signifies. It's not sacrifice for sacrifice's sake, but as preparation for the Easter that is to come.
Rather than suffering through the season, I've come to treat Lent as a long game of forty innings. Each day a goal, and at the end of it, the assessment: did I win today? what could I have done better? how am I going to play this tomorrow? In the end, will I come out of Lent a better person than when I came in?
By way of self-improvement, Lent comes at a most opportune time, some three months after the New Year. By now, New Year's resolutions will have been forgotten, or given up on. Lent is the perfect time to revisit those goals and start on them anew. Unlike resolutions in the New Year which have no time frame, resolutions in Lent have a definite deadline.
I like to think that as I've matured, I've become more self-aware -- of my faults and of my weaknesses. More often than not, these faults and weaknesses stem from complacency and self-love. So what more fitting way to celebrate Lent than to offer up little sacrifices that aim at how I can be a better man?