We’re four weeks in—have you hit the Lenten slump yet?
I coast along for a good week or two right after Ash Wednesday (and the first two weeks of the new year with my new year resolutions, for that matter). But then I hit some road bumps. I get a little sloppy with what I’ve decided to give up or add for Lent, and it seems less important to keep going strong. I have to remind myself why I’m doing these things. And sometimes it is hard to figure out why staying strong is important.
Here are two points of reflection that have helped me figure out why Lenten penances matter.
What motivates you?
One year I had my best Lent ever—and by that I mean that I chose a very helpful penitential practice that was a good fit for me, and I persevered in it until the end of Lent. What I did that year was right around Ash Wednesday I wrote down 40 people’s names. Every day I drew a name, and I lived my day for that person. I would offer up the annoyances of my day for him or her, I would pray for that person throughout the day, and try to make little sacrifices for them. I would also try to send the person a text or email or letter to say hi. I was very motivated that Lent because the person I drew every day kept me focused. I started to realize that people motivate me in my faith journey. Hold onto that thought.
Will you do it for Jesus?
Another year, my husband and I went out to dinner with our extended family on a Friday. We were all looking at the menu for what meatless options the restaurant had available. The person serving us overheard our dilemma and asked, “Do you give up meat on Fridays for Jesus?” Yes, we answered, as she pointed out her vegetarian favorites. Her question left a huge mark on my heart though.
Until this day, I still think about what she said. Why do we abstain from meat on Fridays? Is it just because it is a rule that the Church has, and we follow Church rules? Yes, that is a reason. But she had put her finger on the more meaningful, and motivating, reason. We give up meat on Fridays for Jesus. We do it in solidarity with Him—giving things up like he did when he died and gave up so much for us. We also do it to help us let go of the distracting things of this world, so we can grow closer to Him.
This Lent, I have given up snacking, and added in confession on Saturdays and forgiveness prayers on Fridays. I haven’t had any trouble with the once-a-week prayers and confession. I see the fruit of those right away—both have given me some peace and make me immediately more attuned to how I’m loving others. But, the not snacking part of my Lent has been challenging. Why should I continue this for two more weeks? Does it really matter? Here’s where I need to remember who I’m doing this for. I’m giving up snacking for Jesus. Offering a day of Lent for my grandma, my coworker, or my neighbor helped me see the value of the Lenten season many years ago. Today, I need to refocus again. Jesus, I’m skipping that mid-morning peanut butter toast for you. That afternoon banana? Nope. Not today! Help me learn how to love like You. Easter will be all the sweeter if I can die a little with You this Lent. Amen.