We are a week into the new year and the gym has already started to thin out. Like Christmas decorating, pumpkin carving, and opening day of the baseball season, there is almost a ritual to it. Every year, well-intentioned people trek to the gym to burn off the holiday weight and to get serious about getting in shape. Some make it for three days, others a week, and others last through the month. The first day that the temperature drops below freezing or there is rain or snow, many of these people skip their workout. After missing one, it is easy to miss another. I know. I understand. This is my annual ritual.
This ritual is repeated on the spiritual front during the Christian season of Lent. Many of us make Lenten promises to become better people. We vow to increase prayer, acts of charity, and penance. After Ash Wednesday, Church is packed each morning until the first snow fall. Few last the 40 days and 40 nights (for the technical folks please add Sundays and the Triduum). As I child, I could not even remember my Lenten promises after the first week!*
None of this should be surprising. It is so easy to get distracted and lose our way. We may quickly lose hope and discouragement sets in. One of my favorites from the AA Daily Reflections book eloquently addresses this and is a good reminder to avoid self-pity and a defeatist attitude. “Discouragement is a warning signal that I may have wandered across the God line. The secret of fulfilling my potential is acknowledging my limitations and believing that time is a gift, not a threat. Hope is the key that unlocks the door of discouragement.”
*There are plenty of “tricks” to avoid the New Year resolution drop off. I use plenty of lists to make sure that I am productive. It is strange seeing “Pray” and “Be grateful” next to “Trash out tomorrow,” but it works for me. Lastly, until recently I missed a gem of a stanza at the end of Mary Poppins that captures young adulthood wonderfully! I’ll probably never have a chance to include it here again. In it, Mr. Banks sings to Burt who basically tells him to eat sugar and get over it.
A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time
Before the mortar of his zeal has a chance to congeal
The cup is dashed from his lips
The flame is snuffed a-borning
He’s brought to rack and ruin in his prime.