It’s a stretch to say that I gave up my half-marathon for Lent.
That would be no sacrifice at all, since I haven’t ever run 13.1 miles. Giving up something we’ve never done isn’t exactly fasting. It’s like saying, “For Lent, I will give up caviar and sushi and arsenic” knowing that I have never had any of the three.
I did, however, give up my plan to run a half-marathon at Notre Dame on March 28. In early December, when my legs were strong and my fantasies were stronger, I registered. I pushed. Then something happened to my knee. I could barely walk at our normal mall-walking speed. I got a brace for my knee. Running and riding were impossible.
But I kept the dream alive.
Until this week.
I realized that the fee and my public statements about running kept me registered, but every attempt to run created paralyzing tension. I understand the importance of willpower. I also understand that sometimes we don’t start something because it’s too big, and we know that little steps are the way to start, but there is (almost) no way that little steps will get us to 13 miles in less than two months.
So I withdrew.
I gave up a piece of pride for the sake of health wisdom, which will leave me free to run again.
The season of Lent can have unhealthy mortification associated with it. Grand goals of comfort abandonment which we think will please God. Or punish ourselves for our indulgence.
But there is enough pain in running the life of faith inflicting extra. We’re invited to toss off what drags us down – including goals to impress; to quit sin that tangles around our legs like trip lines; and look at Jesus – his example, his words, his empty tomb.
For more on Lent, see my book Lent for Non-Lent People.