If I asked you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Lent, what would you say?
Hello daily Mass?
Or would you say that Lent feels like proof you’re not good enough, because if you were, you wouldn’t have to give any more?
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me she identifies with option three. She said that while theologically, she understands Lent and its purpose as a season, she can’t help but view it as a message that her everyday prayers, sacrifices, and acts of service aren’t sufficient for her to earn God’s graces.
She looked at me, a hint of resignation in her voice. “I feel like I’ve got to do more,” she said quietly, “if I’m going to make God love me.”
I could sympathize. Like me, she’s a homeschooling mom of brilliant, intense, differently-wired kids. Running to therapy appointments, nourishing intellectual curiosity, and teaching social/emotional skills make every day a beautiful trial, an opportunity to unite our triumphs and struggles to those of Christ on the cross. And then comes Lent, a holy season whose focus lays on increased fasting, serving, and prayer time.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of asking, why isn’t my daily life enough?
It is, when we are able to offer it up.
As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst … ‘Repent and believe,’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. – St. Teresa of Calcutta
There is a tendency, I think, to look at Lent in terms of quantity. How much more “stuff” are you going to be doing? What other efforts can you possibly take on? But as St. Teresa says, God wants only the chance to love you. He knows your heart, and wants only your love in return. When you keep your eyes fixed on the quantity of your Lenten observances rather than the quality, Lent becomes not an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord, but a test you have 40 days to cram for –
40 days to cram for, and pass.
Sometimes life circumstances are going to dictate the reality of your Lenten focus. You may start out with lofty goals and a desire to meet certain standards, but God has already given you a specific cross. It’s the one He wants you to carry because He knows what will purify and refine you. In this way, Lent isn’t about “more” — it’s about intentionality.
Perhaps this is the time to refocus your own Way of the Cross.
Think about the life you’re already leading. How intentional is your prayer time? How mindful are you in offering up your daily, simple tasks? How likely are you to pick up the little one’s toys or your husband’s socks or the middle-schooler’s mess of a bookbag out of love for that individual person, not annoyance that you’ve already done it three times in the last hour and a half?
Lent is not an invention designed to remind you of your worthlessness. Rather, it is an opportunity to unite yourself to His sufferings, and in so doing, rediscover your inestimable value in the heart of Christ. When you are intentional about the prayer, sacrifice and service you are already doing, every step you take becomes an opportunity for holiness, a way to go back to the God who has loved you since the beginning of time.
Lent is not a test.
You don’t have to turn in your service hours.
No one’s checking off your sacrifice.
There’s no requirement for the number of hours you spend in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Don’t let the trap of comparison or the reality of desolations invade your worth or the value of this beautiful season.
Remember the words of St. Teresa: Lent is a time for greater love.
He wants only the chance to love you.
Copyright 2019 Ginny Kochis