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Lent…and the Thing We’re All Missing

There aren’t many benefits to getting the flu, but I did find one.

Time.

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.”

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?

Are you?

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.

9 Comments

  1. Sarah Fearn Johnson on February 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    My husband and I are going to be traveling to wonderful places this Lent. Who plans to be home in Lent when so many travels get scheduled far in advance for ticket prices and other considerations? Never crossed my mind. Now I am in the place where I think lots of walks in beautiful places with prayer and meditation may be what gets accomplished this Lent. I would have to say, in all humility, that I do know how blessed my life is and I am grateful for it.

  2. Cathy on February 8, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Oh my. This is beautiful and wise and just what I need to ponder in these last days before Lent. (I haven’t commented before but I love your words here and on IG!)

    • Kathryn on February 8, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Aww yay! Glad you’re here.

  3. Jennifer on February 8, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Was just looking at my Blessed is She lent journal. Ash Wednesday’s reading is Matthew 6:1-6…starts with…”Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them…”. The whole reading speaks to what you write here and it’s reinforcement of my thoughts that what we sacrifice for lent is personal to our own journey with Christ and should be something that stretches us in our current state to let go of what is keeping us from being closer to Christ. He knows our struggles and our sacrifice and that is all that matters.

  4. Amy Whitaker on February 9, 2018 at 6:47 am

    First, Lent is my favorite too! Like boot camp for your soul. I have noticed people try to out-Christian each other- does that make sense? Comparison and pride are kinda missing the whole point, you know?

    Blessed is She Lent journal, should I order it? I want less screen time, more reading! I thought about just using an app, but that’s just not the same. Thoughts?

  5. Sandy on February 9, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I am so glad that I read your post today. Last night between midnight & 1 am I was wide awake & my mind was turning. I am a cradle Catholic who has stepped away from the church at time with all kinds of excuses. There’s the “my husband works lots of hours & this is our only time together”, the “I’m too tired to get up for Mass”, & “I don’t want to deal with my toddler in church”. I know in my heart they are wrong. I’m letting my toddler down by not taking her to church.

    We just recently lost my aunt this Wednesday & I feel like God was whispering / yelling in my ear last night. I think He was reminding me that He was always there no matter what my excuses & that I need to stop & listen. I think that this Lent is going to be about that for me. A time for me to stop the excuses & get my butt back to church & into the confessional.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Karen Hess on February 9, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Gosh, this is SO eye-opening! I’m already stressing as to whether I’ll be faithful to “She Who Believed,” or how will I walk the walk for me and Christ and no one else. I have no excuses – I’m retired and have loads of discretionary time. I’m ashamed to say that as a devoted Catholic to Lent last year, I don’t feel much change in myself heading into Lent this year. Yikes, I’ve got a lot of work to do in those 40 Days and thereafter. Thank you, Kathryn, for shaking my tree!
    Karen

  7. Kathy on February 18, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    Bingo! Thank you, Kathryn, for spelling it out. May you have a Holy Lent.

  8. Lent, and what it's NOT - Team Whitaker on March 4, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    […] blog over the last decade. I’ve chatted about how to make it meaningful for your kids, why we keep missing the point and why I want the world to know what it means (a la sassy […]

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