Lent is great season, my favorite one of the year. Lent is an opportunity to empty myself of me, so as to make room for God.
Prayer is an opportunity to express gratitude for all of God’s gifts — gifts all too easy to take for granted when pride and the everyday frustrations of life kick in.
Almsgiving is an opportunity to follow the example — and command — of Jesus.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you brought me home, naked, and you clothed me, sick, and you cared for me, a prisoner, and you came to me. Whereupon the just will answer, Lord, when was it that we saw thee hungry, and fed thee, or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When was it that we saw thee a stranger, and brought thee home, or naked, and clothed thee? When was it that we saw thee sick or in prison and came to thee? And the King will answer them, Believe me, when you did it to one of the least of my brethren here, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40)
Fasting is an opportunity to violently break my attachments to passing, worldly things and refocus on what is eternal, true, and beautiful.
Gratitude, humility, detachment, service, faith, spiritual wholeness — These are the fruits of a Lent well spent.
Don’t Give Up
One thing I’m learning is not to focus too much on the “giving up” aspect of Lent. Forgoing chocolate or cheese, only to go back to it with a vengeance afterward, defeats the whole purpose of Lent. The idea is to use the season to make permanent changes, ones that become habitual after Easter.
Another way to make Lent more productive is to not bite off more than you can chew (or not bite off more than you can’t chew, in the case of chocolate and cheese). When I first started observing Lent, I identified about 10 of my worst spiritual shortcomings, and tried to eliminate them all at once. Rookie mistake: I grossly overestimated my willpower. In this regard, Lent is a lot like continuous improvement in the business world — small spiritual improvements produce growth and increase one’s confidence and ability to improve further.
Dare to Be Undistracted
Granted, it’s hard to observe Lent faithfully. We live in a me-first culture. Distractions pour down from the sky. Everyday life can be just plain tough and time-consuming. So I tell myself, if today I can only devote 10 extra minutes to prayer, then that’s what I’ll do. A lot of times, when I really think about it, those 10 extra minutes could easily be 20. It’s all a matter of prioritization and focus. Easier said than done, but Lent springs eternal.
(Image Credit — Wikimedia Commons)