Lent has sprung up early on me this year. As I write, it’s less than a week away! So, dearest reader, I won’t have a long, thought out, extremely thorough post about Lent for you today. Mom, it may even be less than 1,000 words! (My former journalist of a mother doesn’t think I can write a post less than that. You win, Mom. I’m at 1569!)
Lent is one of my least favorite and favorite seasons. I hate self-sacrificing. It’s just the worst. But I love it once I do it. Lent forces me to give up something I love, and at the end of it all, I love that thing all the more perfectly. I take my Lenten promises very seriously, and I think about them like I shop for Christmas presents: 6 months ahead of time.
But what to give up this year? I turned to a favorite passage from the Old Testament book of Joel and 1st Reading of Ash Wednesday:
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God,
For he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,
and relenting in punishment.
What can I give up this year to help really render my heart to God, not the small, exterior things (my garments) that don’t interfere with my relationship with Him? What do I need to render to God? What can I give up to Him that I love equal to if not more than Him?
This year took me a while. 2015 was a great year. I practiced gratitude all year by sending a monthly thank you note. For Lent, I increased my daily prayer to 20 minutes and increased the time I gave to family and friends. It was good, but definitely not one of my best Lents.
I had other great things I’d given up before for Lent. I’ve given up styling my hair (major but healing blow to the ego), chocolate (ugh, I missed it, but man oh man, that chocolate on Easter morning was DELICIOUS!), and even dating (I cannot even describe the agony of having a major crush try to get my number during that time and having to hold back).
But all those thing I’ve given up, I have a greater appreciation for now. I barely us my hair straightener anymore. I’m instead discovering the natural CURL I’ve been given and loving it. I adore chocolate, but I eat it in moderation now as to enjoy it that much more. And oh goodness, how my idea of dating and marriage has changed (and become healthier) since that dating fast in college!
So, what about 2016? What do I need to rend?
I decided this year I want to become the master some long-standing vices: money and food.
Money is that thing I worry about all the time and always think I need more of. Yet Our Lord teaches He gives us enough, even an abundance, and says, “everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31).
So, my New Year’s resolution (inspired by a dear friend) is a 12-month step of increasing financial freedom from budgeting, from learning how to invest from John Bogle, to re-examining how I tithe, to preparing early for tax season.
Money is a vice of mine, yes, but food is all the more dangerous. Food is that thing I use to both hide from my feelings and use to process my feelings. I have a gluttony issue, and it stems from my unhealthy relationship with food.
My unhealthy relationship with food started in 4th grade, right around the time puberty decided to start working on me sooner than my classmates. I was awkward, and I was fat. No, not cute fat. OBESE fat. I used food to hide my feelings during that rough phase of life and kept tipping the scales higher and higher. I kept feeding my feeling with copious amounts of food until one day my mama broke down. We were in the car on the way to the shopping mall to buy me new clothes because I had out-fattened the old ones. But first she broke down and cried that she couldn’t stand buying me new clothes anymore.
I remember coming home, being upset, and turning to a granola bar per usual. I got halfway through until I said to myself, “This isn’t helping anything.” I threw it away and got lost in a book, probably Harry Potter.
Yes, I still have an intelligence, pride, and fantasizing issues too, but tackling two vices in one year is preeeeetty painful already. Maybe 2017 will be the year of humility and keeping it real. We’ll see.
To this day, food is something I turn to instead of God. Bad day? Ice cream. Mean patient? Whatever food is lying around in the breakroom. Tired? Speciality coffee. I could pray, I could tell God how I feel, I could “offer it up,” but no, I choose food 99 times to 1.
But I have to eat food to live! I have to use money to live! I can’t just quit these things cold turkey!
The Lord knows that. Yet He teaches,
“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’r ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
God knows we need food and money and many other things. But He does not want us to worry MORE about those earthly things than we worry about how we are best fulfilling His Loving Will here on earth. What good is money for my soul if I only hoard it and am not generous or investing in my future? What good is food for my food if I only use it to satiate my feelings and am not allowing the Lord to heal those wounds?
To heal my unhealthy relationship with food, I’ve decided to do Whole30, a 30-day whole food program meant to change the way we interact with food, from cooking to buying, to sharing, etc. I’ve started to parse down the wonderfully amazing things not allowed on this diet (aka bread, dairy, basically any processed foods) since a little after the new year. Each day when I’m good, I reach for a cookie, a glass of milk, noodles, pastries, ANYTHING because I’m scared I won’t be able to have it again for a long time.
Dallas and Melissa Hartwig who wrote the book talk about the importance of sharing on social media. I scoffed. I really don’t think I can do this, and I really didn’t want other people to know how much I absolutely failed at both this diet and Lent this year.
But I suppose today is a good a day as any to grow in humility, so, yup. I’m attempting this crazy weird carbohydrate-free, dairy-free (BUT NOT THE CHEESE!) diet for Lent this year. I’m going to probably fail epically. And it’s going to drive me crazy because I’ve accidentally encouraged other people to do it, and they’re already doing more awesome at it than me. Maybe 2016 is the year of humility!
Lent is my least favorite and favorite season. I’m probably going to be just raving about this thing like everyone else at the end and treat my body so much better. But all I see right now is a long, cheese-less path until Easter Sunday. I’ve just got to trust there’s going to be an oasis of cheese and milk and ice cream and coffee creamer and pastries and noodles and bread at Easter.
At least I have this wonderful beautifully and girlie journal from Blessed Is She to look forward to.
Lent is penitential season in the Catholic Church. It is a sacred time for us as a global church community to mourn our sins, repent to the Father, and come home to Him.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully and succinctly states,
“By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 540
Jesus was tempted by every temptation in the book in the desert, yet He prevailed. Matthew 4 tells us the story of how He, tired, hungry, and thirsty, still loved His Father more than anything on earth. Because of His resistance, He came out of the desert ready to spread His Gospel of Love, confident His human nature was stronger than any sin.
My challenge for you this Ash Wednesday is to pick a sacrifice that you don’t know you can do. Pick something hard, really hard.
- Is it forgiving an enemy?
- Reaching out to a friend?
- Praying or going to Mass when you don’t feel like it?
- Being more patient with your family?
- Eating better?
- Exercising regularly?
Whatever it is, be confident Your Father will provide for you in your temptations and help pick you up when you fall.
May you and yours have a blessed Lenten season!
*For more ideas and daily inspiration, check out BestLentEver.com. And no, I am not affiliated. I’ve just seen their ads around town and think they’re hilarious and great.