The closer Lent gets, the more I find myself justifying why I don’t need to give up something for the liturgical season. Life, after all, has given me Lent, or so I tell myself.
Our house is tiny.
We’ve been stuck inside for months because of snow, ice, and frigid temps.
Nursing is hard. Milk blisters (yes, that’s a thing as I discovered last week) make it even harder.
Babies get reflux.
I could go on. And believe you me, I’m tempted to. That is but a tiny version of the list I go over in my head – almost daily – as to why I don’t need Lent, why I’m not ready for Lent. I’m not ready for more sacrifice, more penance. No, God, I think I’m good with the suffering, penance, and sacrifice life is already throwing my way, I think I’ll just skip Lent this year. Thanks, but no thanks.
If I somehow think I’m above Lent or not in need of it, then that’s proof that, in fact, I need Lent more than ever. Lent to many is about suffering, sacrifice, ashes and sackcloth. While Lent does involve those things, if we don’t go beyond the sacrifice then we are missing the point altogether.
I, too, have been missing the point. These things, these daily sufferings, inconveniences, and things that try my patience aren’t there just to annoy me. They are, despite my weak whining, opportunities. Each circumstance that feels like Lent is a chance to draw closer to God. Sure, my old youth minister’s voice pops up in my head, nagging me to ‘offer it up’ but Lent is about still more than merely offering up our sufferings.
Many folks give up something for Lent, be it coffee, sweets, smoking, or the like. We spend weeks pining for the thing we’ve given up, taking almost every opportunity to tell someone just how much we are suffering without that thing we’ve given up. We, then, are still missing the point. It isn’t about giving something up, it –whatever we do for Lent – is about drawing closer the Lord. Cutting out sweets, Facebook, smoking, or coffee should ultimately draw us closer the Lord. If we choose to give up something it should be something that is keeping us from the Lord in some way, shape, or form. If what we give up for Lent isn’t drawing us closer to God somehow, then we need to check our own hearts.
For me, continually justifying my life-given Lent is such a reminder. Sure, I can sit here and write about how life gives me Lent. Life gives us all Lent, day in and day out. So instead of giving up something or heaping more [heartless*] suffering on myself, I’m going to take Lent and go beyond the suffering. For me, that is two-fold:
- When I find myself repeating my list of ‘Why Life Has Given Me Lent’, I’ll turn it into a prayer, rather than a complaint. i.e. Our house is tiny, but thank You, Lord, for an eternal home that is more vast than I can imagine. Oh, and thank You for not making this my forever home.
- Daily gratitude. While I’d describe myself as far more of an optimist than a pessimist, I actually stink at daily gratitude. It is much easier to focus on the negative, on the struggles and the suffering. I plan to actually physically write down five things each day that I’m grateful for, little blessings and gifts that I tend to overlook or fail to appreciate.
Yes, life can give us Lent. What seems like Lent to me may be a cakewalk for others, I have no doubt. But you know what? Life gives us Lent because we actually need it. Lent is, quite literally, good for our souls. Without Lent, without the sacrifice and ridding ourselves of our selfishness, we miss a glorious opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. At the end of the day, or the liturgical season, who would you rather be more like, yourself or God? Who would you rather be closer to, your self or God?