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When your Lenten fast is veiled idolatry: A reflection-examen

hełmno - miasto św. Walentego i zakochanych

fot. Elżbieta Pawelec, Urząd Miasta Chełmna

Jennifer Hubbard - published on 02/20/24

I was approaching Lent as a 40-day challenge and not receiving the grace those 40 days afforded.

As he instructed me, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” I thought to myself, Yes, repent, that is what I want to do, if only I can lock into what I should be giving up and adding on for the next 40 days. I was weighing my ability to carry through with whatever decision I made, and whether I could tout a Lenten season that offered remarkable results. I wanted those around me to see my strength and know my perseverance! Those days, the pressure and anxiety in making the right Lenten sacrifice would have me toiling right up to the moment when I would bow my head and accept the mark of humility, suffering, and sorrow.  

Some years I vowed to give up dessert, because anyone that knows me knows my affinity for anything sweet. Besides that, it was also what people around me were giving up, so I would be less likely tempted and, well, maybe in the process I could lose a few pounds. Other years, I decided to give up shopping, because I needed to curb my spending and thought that, well, maybe in the process I would create a financial cushion so that when Lent was complete, I’d add to my spring wardrobe. 

When it wasn’t about giving up, it was a wrestling match with what I would do. Perhaps, I’d donate a morning a week volunteering at my church or in the community, or I’d carve out time to be more present to my friends. Most often, I would settle on deep cleaning my house with the intention that by Easter it would shine like the morning sun when my family arrived for brunch. 

It reads so callous as I write the words. My objective was not a callous attempt to check the fasting box of Lent. I carefully weighed what would be my task and was thoughtful about its impact on my life at that time. Fast from shopping? Perhaps not, I had a wedding to attend that year. Dessert? Perhaps not, it was birthday season.  

At the time, it seemed so innocent, until I realized, it wasn’t. I was approaching Lent as a 40-day challenge and not receiving the grace those 40 days afforded. I can see now I was clinging to my weight, my time, my things, my reputation, and my justification. And my rationalization to not surrender them was my attempt to protect my self-declared deities. I had grown comfortable in the reward they seemed to offer my ego. 

Truth is, I know now, comfortable can become a dangerous place of complacency that lures me into forgetting where I am going. 

And yet, knowing what I know, I caught myself doing it just the other day: Hesitating about how I would fast, that is. 

Despite my yearning to close the space between me and my Lord God, despite my longing to walk in lock step with my Lord Jesus on the road that leads to Calvary, I realized in my hesitation I was pondering all the reasons why I shouldn’t fast from the very thing that I know is keeping me from growing in the closeness I desire. And because of that, I know it is the very thing I must surrender to Him.

FaithLentSpiritual Life
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