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February 6, 2008
I have been whining for weeks to whomever would listen about how early Lent is this year. Whose idea was this, I have demanded,but answer came there none -- those who dreamed up the Christian calendar have been dead for centuries, and are well beyond my retribution.

But now Ash Wednesday is here, and suddenly I am glad. Perhaps Lent will put some of the starch back in me. I awaken with relief from a tedious dream involving a parade of objectionable old boyfriends and welcome the thought of a new start, a fiercer cutting off of things that are, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, actively harmful. Thanks be to God, I don't have to stay with things that don't fit, am not doomed to reinjury, again and again.

There are two ways of looking at Lenten deprivation. One is as a penance for sin, a purification of old habits to cleanse the soul. The other is as a strengthening, the spiritual equivalent of a fitness regimen at the gym. Your self-denial can make you a stronger person. You learn that you can receive the power to tell yourself "no" sometimes, and that your "no" is less important than the power to say it.

Jesus sits in the wilderness and wants the things we all want. He sits there until he knows he can live life without any of them, becasue he knows, as we all must know, that we all will lose everything. And then he arises and returns to his world, as we return daily to ours. But we know more about what we can do with the power we have been given than we knew when we began.
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