It’s almost my favorite least favorite time of the year: Lent. It’s such a good time to really focus on how I am keeping myself from the love of God, but for the love of God, why does it have to be so hard!?
Lent is like any sort of exercise. It’s as hard or as easy as you make it. As a kid, our household gave up chocolate and sweets. We did it together, and we did it every year, and it eventually became too easy.
Though regular and even easy exercise is good for us, it’s not the best for us. So, several years ago, I started pushing myself to a new challenge every year that boils down to this: What in my life is keeping me from God the most?
That question can lead to some pretty unique sacrifices, such as:
- No curling irons/hair straighteners. I found myself hating my natural beauty and really needing to embrace the hair (and body) that God had given me versus the one I thought I needed to have. Thanks goodness I’ve embraced my natural waves because I am much too lazy to straighten or curl it everyday now! (But seriously, this exercise was very good for my self-image.)
- Whole 30 diet. I was diagnosed with PCOS. It was so hard to feel out of control when it came to my own body, and I wanted to see if dietary changes could help with symptoms and cycle regularity. Spoiler alert: it did and it does! But now I’m the crazy lady who reads food labels all the time and looks for soy ingredients vigilantly and therefore can only really eat two brands of non-ice cream ice cream.
- Boys. Yup. I’ve given up dating for Lent. I’ve been guilty of unhealthy perceptions of dating and relationships, so swearing them off and just focusing on being someone’s friend and that weird-cliché “dating Jesus” thing was really good for me.
- Shopping. I did not let myself buy anything new (including used at Goodwill!) one Lent. It was the Lent after graduating, and I was buying all sorts of stupid things. Very eye-opening to not buy new things and find you have enough already
- Social Media. Those breaks are so good for the soul, especially for the parts of me that thinks everyone’s life is going well when mine’s falling apart. And I found myself checking social media before checking in with Jesus aka praying, so this helped me re-focus my attention.
- Chocolate. Ok, ok. It’s not unique and I just said it’s “easy,” but it’s actually really hard to give up sweets at work when you’re alone! But I found myself overcompensating for stress at work with food instead of dealing with it, so giving this up forced me to actually deal with my stress.
I already love/hate what I’m giving up. This year, I’m giving up speeding. Yup. Speeding. I have a lead foot and am usually chronically running late, which just makes the lead foot thing even worse. But spiritually, I find myself extremely anxious to get places whether it be finished with graduate school or dating or being a mother. I’m so worried about the future that I’m not really enjoying where I am.
I’ve done a couple practice runs, and it’s horrible. I hate going just 5 over the speed limit in the city and only 10 over on the highway. (Yes, I’m the worst driver. I get it.) It’s just so slow! But I know this will be so incredibly good for my heart, so please pray for me if you need a Lenten sacrifice!
Catholics traditionally give up one thing for the entirety of Lent, but I always like the idea of adding something as well whether it be almsgiving, giving up time to serve others, spiritual reading, etc. This Lent, I’m already adding volunteering (since volunteering monthly is my New Year’s resolution), and I know I am always tempted to add too much, so I’m just adding a lenten reflection book by St. Pope John Paul II called Lent and Easter Wisdom from Pope John Paul II. Every reflection has an action item each day, so JP II will cover my “adding something.” (This book has a series ranging from my beloved Henri Nouwen to the sweet St. Therese of Lisieux. If you have a favorite Catholic saint/author, it may be worth checking out! I just happen to stumble upon the JP II one.)
(PS, does Lent sound like marriage right now? Something borrowed, something blue to something given, something due? Maybe?)
I’m sure you’ll be reading future posts about the fruits of all this, but for right now, I’m planning on planting the seeds. I hope you take this season of Lent seriously and find whatever in your life is holding you back from Jesus! The great thing is Lent isn’t a one-time deal. I find there’s always something keeping me from holiness, and Lent is an excellent annual exercise to weed that part of my life out.
In case you’re looking for ideas, here’s some great Lenten links:
- FAQs from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm
- FAQs from Catholic.org: http://www.catholic.org/lent/faq.php#giving
- A great infographic on giving up meat and fasting: https://focusoncampus.org/content/an-illustrated-guide-to-lenten-fasting-and-abstinence
- Ideas on “Give Up Pick Up” from Reverb Culture: http://www.reverbculture.com/blog/2014/2/26/lent-give-up-pick-up
- Fr. Mike Schmitz on Ascension Press on Lent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qDG51cl9gY
- Stephen Colbert and Fr. James Martin on Lent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-zxn-YGUI4 (Would you let someone tell you to give up a spice, a food, and a candy!?)
(PS, Mom. 921 words!)