When it feels like you're failing at Lent

When it feels like you're failing at Lent (2)

Courtesy of Heather Anderson Renshaw. All rights reserved.

Sometimes the Lent you’ve planned for yourself isn’t the one God has in mind.

Case in point: I went on the record in a very public way about my Lenten resolutions. And yet, ask me how many of my plans I’ve actually been able to execute well. I dare you.


It’s tough, this “path to holiness” thing. It’s filled with unexpected twists and turns. It’s especially difficult, I’ve found, when we make our own plans before asking God for His input.

With aspirations for detoxing, decluttering, and holiness-increasing, I was intent on making this my best. Lent. ever.

Right off the bat, I began Lent as sick as a dog. I was too ill (and contagious) to make it to church on Ash Wednesday for the first time in recent memory. The day after I drove my sorry self to immediate care for medical attention, one of my children took ill. And a few days later, the next child went down. And so on. Until our house seemed to be a revolving door of doctor visits and pharmacy pick-ups. A very inauspicious beginning to the season, perhaps, but also curiously Lent-like, as we prayed for healing, gave alms to the healthcare industry, and fasted from health and good humor.

Being sick and caring for the infirm precluded me from even thinking about rounding up a bag’s worth of things for my pledge to shed 40 bags in 40 days. It also kept me from writing in my prayer journal. Now, over half-way through Lent, I’ve only taken out the trash and the recycling and written very little. Annnnnd … fail.

Fasting from Facebook hasn’t been particularly difficult. I’ve broken my fast a couple of times for ministry-related purposes, and once to check in on a friend’s prayer request, and once to research my friend’s birthday. But other than that, it’s been easy. Except I think I’ve tripled my time on Twitter and Instagram, which probably flies in the face of the intent of my fast, which was to reduce time spent aimlessly on social media. Soooo … fail.

Giving up sugar and dairy has also been easier than I anticipated. I have the good Lord and fear of potential health problems to thank for that, I suppose. But, without my go-to food crutches to bail me out of my problems, I’ve admittedly been crankier than usual. Just ask my family. Fail again.

There have been other failures and disappointments, of course, but these are the failures that stem from the plans I specifically made for myself this Lent. And – oh, look. I’ve failed in three areas. Three. Where have we seen this before? Oh, right – Christ fell three times. And yet He got back up.

Now, I am in no way comparing myself to the savior of the world, but I have, for better or worse, been blessed with a stubborn streak the size of Texas. Or at least Nebraska. And so, despite the temptation to just give up already, I, too, keep getting up and forging on in spite of myself.

Perhaps by continuing to walk this dusty road of Lent, failures and all, I will finally reach the foot of the Cross and sit resignedly at Christ’s feet, realizing that I’m exactly where He planned for me to be in the first place.

Copyright 2016 Heather Renshaw


About Author

Heather Anderson Renshaw is a wife, Mama (x5) and on-fire Catholic revert. She’s a writer (Real Catholic MomAll Things Girl: Truth For Teens, Blessed is She), radio producer/co-host (The Visitation Project), speaker/event organizer (Catholic Women RejoiceCalled to Love, retreats), nap-craver, coffee drinker, and laundry avoider. Heather prays all may experience the healing power of Divine Mercy so they can rejoice and be free.


  1. I love this! My lent started off on a good foot, but our second child came 2 1/2 weeks early and it went downhill from there. We stopped our daily reflections, I missed my goal of 2 daily masses a week and I forgot to abstain from meat while I was in the hospital on a Friday. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but am hoping to get back on track this week.

    • Hello, Monica!

      First of all, congratulations on the newest addition! Praise the Lord for the gift of new life!

      Secondly, if having a newborn during Lent isn’t sacrificial, I don’t know what is. In cases like yours, we do well to see not as man sees, but as God sees – looking to the heart.

      Constant feedings and sleep deprivation and various other physical adjustments can be authentic offerings to Jesus when done with love. Of course, adding an extra Mass and extended prayers is a beautiful aspiration, but I have a feeling your Heavenly Father is well-pleased when you are caring for your family and loving them well.

      Lean against His Sacred Heart and be at peace, dear Monica. <3

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