I love Lent, but I often fail to embrace an appropriate attitude during this season. Instead of focusing on growing closer to Christ, I will become obsessed with my Lenten ideals.
For example, there was one year when I—excitedly—decided to have a really intense Ash Wednesday. Over the course of a very full day that involved college classes, manning a table in the student center, and doing homework, I ate only one small dinner roll. I waved away all thoughts of food, because they did not align with my plan of penance for that day. As you can imagine, by the time evening rolled around, I had a bad headache, could not focus on anything, and did not feel well.
I was so stuck on my vision for Lent that I did not see the reality: I was putting my own stubbornness above what God wanted of me; namely, to take care of myself appropriately and only do such extreme penances with the guidance of a spiritual director. Different thoughts swirled in my mind that day, some of dissatisfaction with myself:
If only I was stronger and could do an intense fast.
If only I could have a silent life, focused on prayer, like cloistered nuns.
To this day, there will be times when “If only . . .” thoughts arise in my mind. I will grasp an idealized image that I have of holiness and focus on that, instead of opening my eyes to see what God wants of me in the present moment.
[tweet “This #Lent, stop saying ‘if only’ and start saying ‘fiat’.”
I’ve been learning that I need to stop saying “if only,” and start saying “fiat.” A simple four-letter word that refers to Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan for her life, fiat reflects a surrender to God.
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
If I start saying “fiat” with my life, I need to let go of my plans and desires, so that God may take them. I need to be open to God moving my life in radical ways. I need to stop being so stubborn.
Each year as Lent begins, one of the ongoing conversations among many Catholics revolves around one’s “Lenten Plan.” Creating a solid outline or regime for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent is a great way to keep yourself accountable as you strive to contemplate Christ Crucified. However, as we look at our Lenten routines, we need to remember two important words: Be flexible.
If we obstinately hold onto our Lenten penances when God is moving us in a different direction, are we truly living out a penitential spirit of trust and acceptance? If we become grumpy and irritated each time unpredictable events disrupt our routine, are we saying “fiat” with our lives? When our daily Rosary is interrupted by a crying child or a lonely neighbor ringing the doorbell, how will we react?
Once Easter comes, we could say: “I’m so proud of myself for strictly following my Lenten plan!” But, wouldn’t it be better to be able to say:“I’m glad that I was flexible with my plans, so that God could work in my life”?
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller