By now, there must be 5,000 posts on how to make this your best Lent, ever.
This is not that post.
I’m a convert to Catholicism, so my take on Lent is probably markedly different than many Catholic moms. There are no years-long traditions of Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday celebrations for which I can draw inspiration. Nor are there stories of how I remember Lent growing up as a kid. It wasn’t until we had children that we really ramped up our Lenten sacrifices and celebrations.
You see, as a Protestant, my focus was always on Easter. The resurrection. The beauty of the sacrifice.
For years, I’ve been doing it wrong. Even as a Catholic.
In college, I was always fascinated, and somewhat intrigued, that my Catholic friends were so into Lent. 40 days just seemed like an eternity. And I was all, “Why the sacrifice, man, don’t you know how the story ends?” And they would smile. Surely they knew, but it wasn’t until I embraced the Catholic faith that I realized the beauty of the penitence.
Thank you for this timely quote from Ven. Sheen, Bonnie.
All along, I thought it mattered what I was giving up (or doing more of) during the 40 days of Lent, preceding the Easter season. Somehow, I’d made the season about me, and less about Him.
In my purest of heart-filled intentions, I had forgotten that this season was more about increasing my love for God, and less about breaking bad habits. I’m a doer, a Type-Aer, a list maker. Those are all perfect, or so I thought, characteristics for Lent.
40 bags for 40 days. Check.
40 notes of gratitude. Check.
Give up sweets and Dr Pepper. Check.
Attend Daily Mass once a week. Check.
Avoid eating out. Check.
Check. Check. Check.
So many checklists. Such an empty heart. No wonder I was approaching Holy Week feeling less fulfilled than I should. I had forgotten the one important thing.
To love more.
This Lent, my sacrifices are focused on just that. Love. It always wins, doesn’t it? When I write a note of gratitude, perhaps I should choose someone in which I find it difficult to love. When I give up eating out, perhaps I should take that money (or that meal) and hand deliver it to someone living on the streets. I don’t entirely know what my Lent will look like this year, but I do know one thing.
The focus has changed. The incessant need to make lists, I am reluctantly avoiding. The desire to chant the “I can’t believe I gave this up” I’ll be working on quieting. When we choose to fall in love with someone, don’t we desire to listen to them? To ask them questions? To soak up everything there is to know?
As a mom of six, what I desire most is to pee without interruption. So, I’m fully aware that this whole “loving my way through Lent” could easily crash and burn. But, I’m also quite certain that God knows my desires and He plans on throwing me a bone once or twice. If only I’m so un-busy enough to realize it.
Here’s to loving. Here’s to Lent. And here’s to doing it right this year.