We hadn’t talked for awhile. We met for coffee. We placed our orders and went to the end of the counter to wait.
“Should I celebrate Lent?” he said.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Are you satisfied with your relationship with God?”
He looked startled. I felt a little queasy.
“Who is? But what’s that got to do with Lent?”
We got our coffee and sat down. It gave me time to think. I usually am more diplomatic. I started writing about Lent for the people who kept Lent, to give them a different way to think. I never really thought about recommending the practice of Lent to others. And my friend was one of the others. He grew up in a non-Lent home. He’s not sure why I’m so interested.
We settled down at a table in the corner.
“Will celebrating Lent make God happy?” he asked.
“Will it make Him like me more?”
“Will it build up some kind of credit or a reservoir of good will? So that when I screw up the next time, I can say ‘But I was really good during Lent?”
He was mostly joking. But I saw a way to start talking.
“Does that work with your wife?” I asked. “Does that work with any other relationship that really matters to you? That you are nice so you can get away with stuff?”
He smiled. “Well, I try it with my boss. But when I try it with my friends, they know better. They can see right through me.”
“But you try it, right? You get real nice for a couple of days? You pick up the check for lunch?”
“Sometimes. But then they look at me. And we laugh. And then they ask me what I really need help with. And I quit trying to impress them. I turn off everything else and we talk.”
I sat quietly.
“So Lent isn’t about impressing God, it’s about talking and listening?”