I sat at my desk looking at the calendar realizing that Lent was about to end and I could resume the two things I had given up, smoking and drinking. However, this time I was not in the mood to easily partake in the celebration. After a routine exam spotted a shadow in my liver and enlarged lymph nodes were detected in the follow up CatScan, the diagnostic tests had started. The uncertainty was overwhelming.
Without much to offer, I bargained for good results, I closed my eyes and made a promise that day, I would never smoke again as long as I received my wish.
I didn’t. Nevertheless, after that day, I never smoked again.
I didn’t have the capacity at that time to reflect on the promise I had made. It came years later when I realized that a promise is not made contingent on what it’s in exchange for it. It is made because it feels right in our heart.
Every year now I make a lesser promise during Lent and I give up something I enjoy, wine. I don’t choose an easy path like watermelon in winter rather I choose something that requires discipline and self control. Sometimes my observation of Lent is made out of tradition, other times as a challenge, and lately, as reflection and prayer.
There is a form of spiritual renewal that comes from the constriction of our desires and helps eradicate the demon that our pursuit for personal satisfaction becomes. When we get wrapped around the quest of our own gratification, a dark part of our souls emerges and there is no stopping at anything as long as it brings the pleasure we seek; recognition, attention or the empowering feeling of harming others.
Self-control and discipline build character. Restraining the reins of our desires a tad prevents us from being engulfed in the dark shadow that our pursuit for satisfaction can be. A darkness that blinds and does not allow us to make the right decisions.
The self imposed restrictions of Lent provide me with the space and energy to revitalize my spirit and keep me from giving into my own desires. It keeps me honest.