When God Chooses Your Lenten Practice

By DMGualtieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By DMGualtieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Most Lents, I get to choose the practice I want in order to grow closer to God. I like to choose something traditional – a sacrifice of some sort, usually fasting from a favorite food, my morning coffee or snacks between meals. I also like to add a devotion to my Lent – Stations of the Cross every Friday is my favorite, though daily rosary, weekday Mass, or holy hours have been a part of my Lents in years past. Likewise, it is also important to give alms to CRS or some other mission. These are all well and good. I am sure my Lord is pleased with my efforts (for never have I ever done any of my Lenten practices perfectly).

But sometimes, the Lord chooses our practice for us. It may come in the form of an illness, either our own or a loved one’s – a suffering greater than giving up coffee or chocolate. Sometimes, we are asked do take on an extra job of some sort and have to discern if it is God’s will that we find the extra time and give more of ourselves to complete this task. This work then becomes our prayer.

This year, though, God is doing something different with me. In this year of mercy, God has decided that it is about time that I tackle head on a fault of mine. I know this is God’s doing because, while I have desired to correct my fault and have attempted in the past to improve, it was not part of Lenten practices…until God made it clear this was something He wanted from me.

People who know me, but don’t live with me, may be shocked to learn that I complain way too much. I can find fault in most anything. It is, unfortunately, easier for me to tear something apart than to build it up. This is my confession. I am ashamed that my words are not always life-giving and love-sharing.

Like in the famous 12-step programs, admitting I have a problem is a good start. God has revealed to me how much of a problem this is. He has allowed me to hear myself as I have never heard myself before. And to make sure I understand the impact it has on those around me, He has inspired my husband to say something to me about it. Ouch! It hurts to face the ugliness of your sin. Yet, it is necessary in order for there to be a true conversion.

Now that I am aware of the many instances where I speak harmfully, I catch myself. By God’s good grace, I can stop myself. It hasn’t been easy. It seems since this has been made clear to me, I have had more and more things come up about which I could easily complain. My prayer this Lent has been uniquely simple: “Hail Mary, full of grace, put some duct tape across my face.” Sorry if that offends anyone, but it has helped!

As I am able more and more to stop my actions, (aided by our Lady, no doubt) I need to fill the lack of something said with words of life and love. This step can be just as hard as the previous one. I don’t know why, but it does not come natural to me. Thus, I must rely on supernatural help.

I make an effort to praise my children every day. If they have spent half an hour cleaning their room and tell me they are done, I make sure to tell them how nicely they have cleaned the closet before kindly pointing out to them that there are still clothes on the floor and all kinds of things under the bed. I make an effort to see and comment on the good things around me – and there are many.

Looking for the good that surrounds me is facilitated by keeping a notebook in which every day I write down at least one thing for which I am truly grateful. Gratitude, I think, can do much to eradicate boorishness.

God is not finished with me yet. In His mercy, He is working on perfecting me. After all, as much as I want to go to heaven, He wants it even more. He sent His only Son to win for me the graces of perfection. I am most grateful that He is sending those graces to me this Lent.

How about you – has there been a time when God chose your Lenten practice for you?

Copyright 2016 Kelly Guest


About Author

God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com.


    • Kelly Guest on

      Ahh, a beautiful prayer – but a little scary to pray! God bless your Lent and your growth in this virtue.

  1. Flávia Ghelardi on

    Thank you so much for sharing this! This year God surely chose some extra sacrifices for me, since I´ve been sick for 3 weeks now, with two different flu virus. This is helping me grow in patience. The doctor said I should have been healed by now, but I have the feeling that I´ll feel well again only on Easter Sunday.

  2. What a timely post since I too have attempted to give up complaining as part of my Lenten practice. And oh it is hard when it comes so naturally. I find myself wanting to put my foot in my mouth every day. It’s hard not to feel like a failure this Lent! Thank God for His mercy and his indirect way of teaching me humility. I think I’m learning this Lent that I have an even more need of His grace.

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