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Lent: You’re Doing it Wrong

Lent, the 40 day precursor to Easter, can be a time of growth and beauty. This post is a reminder that I've been doing it wrong, and a pledge to get it right this year.Lent.

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.pain plus love is sacrifice

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.

23 Comments

  1. Amanda on February 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

    You’re heart is beautiful, Kathryn as is this post. Thank you for sharing and prayers for your Lenten journey! <3

  2. Jiza on February 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Mmm yes yes yes!! You are spot on, Kathryn.

  3. Debbie G on February 17, 2015 at 11:50 am

    A beautiful post – I just expressed similar sentiments in a post of my own. Lent truly is a matter of the heart. Have a blessed 40 days.

    • Kathryn on February 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Lovely post, Debbie!

  4. Audrey on February 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Beautiful – thanks for reminding me to focus on Him, not me!! Here’s to Love and Lent!!

  5. Cajuntexasmom on February 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    WOW. Thanks. Need this beautoful reminder

  6. Anne on February 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Love this. I’m a Protestant, but I started “doing Lent,” for lack of a better term, last year on Ash Wednesday.
    Your comment about how love wins reminded me of this song from the album “Music Inspired By The Story,” from Steven Curtis Chapman, especially the chorus:
    This is how love wins, every single time, climbing high upon a tree where someone else should die. This is how love heals the deepest part of you, letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds. This is what Love says, standing at the door, you don’t have to be who you’ve been before. Silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again. This is how Love wins.

  7. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama on February 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Love this. I definitely agree that so many people get so caught up in rules, that they forget to love.

  8. Christina on February 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Inspiring! Just what I needed to hear. And as a fellow mama of 6, I rarely get to be in the bathroom alone 🙂

  9. beth on February 17, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you for this:).

  10. Catherine Boucher on February 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    This Type A list making mama needed this post. Thank you for the beautiful reminder to make this Lent about HIM instead of me. Hope you have a blessed Lent! Enjoy the feasting today before the fast!

  11. Jen on February 17, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Kathryn,
    This is a great post, but please don’t discount where you have been in other years. First of all our God meets us where we are. Each year we grow more and more. Maybe the things you have done until now have helped you to get to this place. So please don’t say you have been doing it wrong! Also, remember how you may have touched other people with your past Lenten celebrations. You give great ideas on how to embrace the season. Some may really need those tangible things.
    I SO agree that it shouldn’t be a checklist. I actually have a blog post I have been working on for over a year now, that I just can’t seem to gain the courage to post, about how our faith NOT a checklist. So I completely agree. But I just wanted to encourage you to not discount where you have been, the things you have done to this point, or how you may have helped others along the journey.
    Blessings to you this Lent.
    Jen

  12. Lindsay on February 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    First of all, love the title for all its sensationalism. Love the slug even more: “Lent. You’re wrong.”

    I alluded to the very point you’re making in my last 7QT. I’ve been doing Lent wrong for a while now. I’m hoping that this year, with my single, private resolution that requires doing more, doing less, and being a better person, I’ll finally come out at Easter having grown in holiness. That’s the goal, right? Heaven?

    • Kathryn on February 17, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Heaven, indeed. And I think that’s where I was going wrong all these years. #slowlearner I pray you have an awesome Lent, Lindsay! I’ll have to swing by the office to say howdy!

  13. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on February 17, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    I love this Kathryn! This is only my second Lent, and I have been trying to choose things to give up and take on that I think will bring me closer to Christ. I’m learning more every day about how to do this 🙂 This post is wonderful!

  14. Shandra on February 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Great post, Kathryn! You always motivate me to be a better person. Thanks for being you!

  15. Marjorie on February 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Checklists. Yup, that’s me too! I feel so overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do or give up. There’s so many things I want to work on and change. Maybe I should skip around and try something different every day? One day at a time.

  16. Maryruth on February 18, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Great post. I converted 8 years ago and I have struggled to really ‘do it’ right. This year I gave up coffee and novels – one so that I could focus on the physical and the other because it distracts me from deeper spiritual connections (I would rather read Daniel Silva than Scott Hahn!). I love your emphasis however on just learning to love better. I will be joining you this year! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Tamalyn L. on February 19, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Loved this post. Thank you so very much. As a fellow convert, I have tried for years to make up for all the time missed and bound and determined to put every Lenten “activity” I came across into practice for our four kids and this list-making, type A overload Mama. Epic Fail! I end up stressed out, they end up stressed out and I “give up” on Lent two weeks into it.

    This year, I vowed to keep things simple and “give up” over-planning and stressing out the season (and yelling – but that’s just a tiny little Mama thing, right?). And while we’re only a day into it, it ALREADY feels better! Go figure – your Lenten tags (brilliant, by the way), our prayer cube and a daily saint devotion and hopefully, we’re all a lot happier, less stressed and a GREAT deal closer to truly experiencing the meaning behind this beautiful liturgical season as a family. I’m sure we’ll do a few special things here and there but nothing prepared and planned for weeks. Not to mention, I gain a little (lot?) more Mama time to focus on daily meditation for me in my spiritual journey.

    Prayers for a blessed Lent season, Kathryn. Thank you so much for ALL you do for all of us.

  18. 7 Quick Takes: My kids are hilarious - Team Whitaker on February 20, 2015 at 12:31 am

    […] you hadn’t heard, Lent started. I had a few things to say about that and y’all were oh-so-kind. Whatever you’re choosing to do (or not) these next 40ish […]

  19. […] Lent: You’re Doing it Wrong (Kathryn Whitaker) – Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads people on the same road at the same time. It’s amazing how both Kathryn and I wrote about Lent the same way (though I’m sure we’re not the only ones finally waking up to what Lent is REALLY about.) […]

  20. Erika Marie on March 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for sharing this, I hope you don’t mind I shared it on my a Food for Thought Round Up today. I’m a life-long Catholic and am just now coming to your same conclusions about Lent. This year, I’m focusing on the theme of Returning to the Lord.

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