Some things in life are so good and so sweet that you don’t want to have too much of them for fear that their goodness and sweetness may run out. These could be literal good and sweet things, like desserts, or something that’s incredibly enjoyable to you, like going to certain places, or even listening to music.
I have been thinking about these “dessert-type” things lately, and in the context of Lent, I have been thinking about other kinds of creature comforts, like air conditioning, hot showers, sleeping late, and being able to warm food up in the microwave.
The fewer “desserts” and creature comforts you have, the more you appreciate them. I guess that’s why “everything in moderation” is a good rule (but you always get some smart aleck saying “everything in moderation… even moderation”).
But Lent isn’t necessarily about giving up a material thing or even a food item. My priest said today (and I think he was quoting Pope Francis) that Lent is about giving up those spiritual stumbling blocks that keep you from God, like giving up envy or bitterness or impatience. These things, the things that keep you self-righteous, are what should really be cast aside, and it is much harder to cast them aside.
I’m not a huge fan of meat to begin with, so it’s not difficult for me to avoid it on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. I can go without listening to music for months on end. Refusing to sleep later on the weekends and taking cold showers are no big deal. But giving up those abstract things is a real problem. I tend to realize what I should have done in a situation the moment after it would have been appropriate to do it, or I recall a tiny voice in the back of my mind that told me exactly what I should do in that moment, but I moved too quickly and was so convinced that my way was correct that I didn’t listen.
So maybe the goal of this Lent should be to listen more and not overindulge in my own sense of self-righteousness.