"I've been trying really hard to defeat spiritual legalism. When I think about sin legalistically, I'm constantly terrified that I've committed a mortal sin recently which I haven't confessed, and that if something were to happen to me I'd be damned instantly. I try to remember that if at the personal judgment I truly embrace God, He won't turn away from me."I think this is certainly a valid way of thinking about things from a Catholic perspective, and I don't want to speak against it, but it did strike me as a very foreign viewpoint when I heard it. Foreign to my own experience, that is.
You see, my experience is pretty much the opposite: As someone who seldom feels a strong relationship with God, I find the idea that when I've gone to confession my sins really are forgiven, whether I feel like it or not, very comforting. On the other hand, relying entirely on the idea that when faced with the full experience of God I would unhesitatingly rush to him is, for me, a little terrifying. Unhesitating rushing is not something I'm known for. I'm not the rushing type. The idea of being face to face with God is more than a little terrifying for me -- as perhaps it should be.
As such, I find a more traditional (some would say: dour) approach to Lent intensely comforting, as opposed to the "this is a great time to work on your relationship with God" approach. Even in my married life, I'm not sure how you "work on your relationship" -- but I do know how to say "I love you", spend time talking together, go on a date, or buy a present. Similarly, I don't know how to "work on my relationship with God", but if fasting, prayer and alms-giving are what builds our relationship with Him, those I know how to do.