Yesterday was one of the finest days in Boston: Marathon Monday. Spectators line the streets from Hopkinton to Copley Square to send good energy to the tens of thousands of runners who take on the challenge of Heartbreak Hill and the rest of the 26.2 miles. Though I doubt I’ll ever run a marathon (half-marathons are more my style), I can relate to the anxiety, energy and joy that come from finishing a big race.
This year, with Marathon Monday the same as Easter Monday, I was focused on the completion of another endurance event: Lent. (Yes, I know there are negative theological and pastoral implications to comparing Lent to a marathon, but stay with me.)
This Lent marked the 13th year I gave up alcohol. In addition to that commitment, I usually add in a few other things that vary from year to year: this year I abstained from the desserts in the faculty lunch room, and took Facebook and Twitter off my phone. I tried using a Lenten devotional my husband brought home from church, but it didn’t do it for me. I prayed every morning with the Living Lent emails from Loyola Press. I went to confession.
When the Triduum rolled around I felt healthy and refreshed. I felt like God had used my sacrifices to clear away some of the junk that gets jumbled up inside me so that I could be more focused on what matters.
And then, as it turned out, I got pretty focused on social media Easter weekend and spent too much time fooling around on Twitter and Instagram, too much mental energy worrying about likes and retweets, and I felt like I was back at square one in terms of spiritual clarity. At what should have been a finish line I felt like nothing I had done had accomplished anything and I was the same mess I had always been.
Which, of course, I am. Such is the frustration and the glory of Lent (and all our other attempts at self-renewal). Yes, we get to try again year after year, but that’s because we have to. I long for the tidy demarcation of a finish line, but in the end am relieved that there isn’t a line of accomplishment we have to cross in our spiritual development. If there were I would be just as likely to flop over it vomiting as I would be to trot across triumphantly.
I hope you had a fruitful Lent and joyful Easter, and that wherever you are on your journey you are running with your head held high. Happy Easter.