There aren’t many benefits to getting the flu, but I did find one.
Time on the couch, snuggled beneath two blankets, with a hot cup of tea and Grand Hotel on Netflix. Time to think. Time to rest.
I don’t get much uninterrupted time these days with six kids, 3-16. But this week, God gave me some extra hours to ponder and pray. And, if I’m being 100% honest, to scroll through Instagram. And, truly, that’s why I am here, babbling to the blog.
Scrolling through the never-endless feed of posed and real-life images, with snarky and heartfelt messages began to do a number on my soul. I love IG. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out. But in overdose? Notsomuch. Many of my friends are preparing for Lent, which begins next Wednesday. Those posts were both affirming and unsettling.
You see, Lent is my most favorite liturgical season. It gives me permission to pull back – on obligations, on responsibilities – and other things which I deem “necessary” outside of those 40 days. Yet, rarely do I get grief about it. People are all, “Oh, it’s Lent. I’ll catch you after Easter.” But, more and more, as I am active on social media I’m starting to see a trend and it became painfully apparent this week as I swiped, swiped, swiped up on my smartphone.
We’ve lost our minds with Lent.
I once had a priest encourage his congregation, as we were discerning what to fast from during these 40 days, to look to the confessional booth. He reiterated, “What do you keep taking to the confessional? Start there.”
In this visual, staged, sometimes-not-real-life society we’ve created for ourselves, we’ve become hyper-focused on the creativity of our Lenten sacrifices, on their ability to be “different” than what others are doing. We become obsessed with finding *the* thing, so we can then mark off our 40 days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, then stride into Holy Week and say, “LOOK. Look what I did! I did these things for 40 days. I’m winning at Lent!” And I say we, because I mean me. Haven’t we all been in a place where we’re striving for a perfect Lent?
Except the trueness of this liturgical season isn’t in the checking off of boxes. Hell, it isn’t even in the sacrifices we make. It’s in the change. The transformation. The discipleship.
If you’re looking for a visual, ask yourself (or ask your friends) if you’re a better person at the end of the 40 days than when you started. Not, are you leaner, more fit, more fashionable, more frugal, less caffeinated or healthier.
Are you kinder, more tempered, more generous, less anxious, more grateful?
If you desire to be, then start there. Take a good, hard look at that beautifully crafted soul of yours and uncover it’s holes. Me? Well, I’ve got some big ones. Ones that I’ve been struggling with for a good long time that really came to light last Lent. Nothing like the Lent that finds you, right?
If I’m being truly honest, I doubt I’ll publicly share what I’m fasting from this Lent except to the people I hold dearest. It’s them that deserve the best version of me and I’ve sorely been letting them down. Maybe you’re in the same boat. No shame, sweet sister.
Lent is about the transformation. It’s not about perfection, but about baby steps toward better. Sometimes we get an overabundance of grace and the change comes in sweeping fashion. But in my 22 years of being Catholic, I’m learning that change comes in small bits. And, over time, you look up and realize just how far down the path of salvation you’ve really come. It’s not the straight, pretty path, lined with roses, but you have made progress.
And that, my sweet friends, is what Lent is about.