I know I may be just a tad weird, but Lent has always marked the beginning of the new year..and for spring cleaning. It does not matter if Lent begins in February or March, if the Christmas poinsettias are still blooming or long gone from our décor. Since I was small, Lent and spring cleaning went hand in hand. I don’t know if “giving something up” had anything to do with it, or if this was the only time my mother could coerce all six of her children to do extra chores around the house. Whatever the reason, I have enthusiastically continued the tradition of beginning spring cleaning during Lent.
I love to have the refrigerator shelves shining so glass containers are reflected whenever the door is opened. Seeing all of my stainless steel appliances gleaming… free of those never ending fingerprints and crusted-on food…makes me happy. Baseboards, cupboards, linen closets – sometime during Lent I will happily tackle each and every one of them. Holy Thursday may arrive without total success in the spring cleaning detail…but I will try.
During Lent is also the time I check to see if any houseplants need to be repotted, pruned, or given a timely funeral. Pluck out the dead stems, soak the roots of those plants doing the forward yoga bend, and actually spread fertilize around the base. As you can probably tell, my hands are void of anything resembling a green thumb…but I will try!
I know my home will never truly be clean for more than one day…unless both of us are away for an extended period of time. There is no such thing as a spotless home for this happily married well-adjusted couple. Hasn’t happened in thirty-four years and never in any of the four homes we have owned. But during Lent…I will try.
The same goes for my other Lenten Goals. Each day, for the next 40 days, my goals will be stretched, bent, reordered, redefined, and sadly, sometimes forgotten. And that is why Lent is the best time of the year for me. Like my houseplant skills and housekeeping skills, there is always room for improvement. More importantly, I have learned over the years to forgive myself for not living up to the goals I set for myself. But during Lent…I will try.
And every year I get to try to be just a little bit better than the year before.
I tried to teach my children never to set Lenten abstinences, penances, or “goals” for selfish reasons – although my abstinence from chocolate and wine one time made my scale register numbers not seen in years. We set them to remind us that the “things” we come to value, to look forward to, during the course of the year can sometimes stop us from doing better.
Abstain from TV? Spend the time saved helping around the house, doing a special chore. Abstain from snacking during the day? Spend those minutes you would have spent snacking praying the rosary or reading the Bible. Abstain from eating out on a Friday night? Attend the Stations of the Cross at your Church. Abstain from gossiping? Spend the time spreading the Good News of the Lord. Abstain from blogging or writing on Facebook? Write a letter or card, with paper and pen, to your grandparents or friend.
Lent is that special time when we can clean out the everyday minutes of our lives and replace them with time spent closer to God. Minutes devoted to listening to what He wants us to hear…not what we turn on, tune into, plug into, or read. Minutes we can turn to Easter Sunday, reflect on, and realize how truly precious time can be.
Will I sometimes fail this year? If history is any kind of indicator, chances are fairly high this Lent will not be the perfect, gleaming, stainless steel kind of Lent I envisioned on Ash Wednesday. But having the vision is important. It is my roadmap to Easter. I begin here and hope to end up there. Luckily, due to prior experience, if I detour a bit I know exactly how to get back on the path.
Time on earth is a gift God gave each of us. During Lent, it is truly fitting we use some of that time becoming closer to Him. At the very least….we need to try.
Copyright 2012 Carol S. Bannon