Hello. My name is Heather. And I have a problem with Lent.
Before you sharpen your pencils to compose a blistering letter to our esteemed editor recounting my heresies, I humbly implore you to please hear me out.
I know all about the regulations and practices and have heard countless suggestions for having the BEST. LENT. EVERRR. I understand that the Church, in Her wisdom, provides us with this designated time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as an opportunity and a gift. As one who enjoys opportunities and gifts, I am totally on board. Goodness – I actually like Lent, in theory, and often in practice – especially when I can continue consuming bacon and gelato and social media. I’ll even go on record as being pro-Lent. And yet, I have struggled with discerning and maintaining my personal Lenten observances.
My theory is that my difficulty with Lent was rooted in a skewed notion of what the season is actually intended to accomplish. As an example, let’s look at my approach to fasting.
Over the years, I’ve attempted to give up just about everything – sweets, screens, sanity – you name it. And I think I knew, at least in the back of my mind, that I was sacrificing something I enjoyed to become closer to God. But I don’t think that half-praying, half-crying, “Dear God, when will it be Easter so I can eat chocolate/drink coffee/indulge myself?!” several times a day for 40 days straight is what our Lord had in mind.
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Photo credit: Thomas Habr; used with permission.
In all my years of voting, I have never once cried about it. I am extraordinarily grateful to live in a country and a time in history where I am allowed – and encouraged – to vote. But I admit I cried when I took up my mail-in ballot earlier this month. I cried for our nation. I cried for my children. I cried because I am just so exhausted by the moral wasteland that is current American politics.
Once I stopped crying, I ate two cookies, even though I wanted to eat 10 cookies, because old habits (emotional eating) die hard.
With sugar from the chocolate chip cookies still surging through my veins, I wiped the tears from my eyes and the crumbs from my mouth and I decided to do the only genuinely constructive thing I felt I could do: I decided to pray.
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Image used with permission via Ignitum Today
Here’s a sure clue that I’m starting to become overwhelmed: This week I’ve been so busy tending to my family’s needs and various obligations and responsibilities and my never-ending “to-do” list (and, yes, those multiple haphazard scraps of paper strewn across kitchen countertop do count as a “to-do” list in my world) — that I missed my favorite television show.
Is it a sure clue that I’m becoming overwhelmed, or that my priorities are finally settling in as they should?
- Relationship with God,
- ministry …
… and distant, distant next: everything else, including TV.
Something to think about during this season of detachment.