How not to be a baby about Lent

How not to be a baby about Lent

I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at Lent.

I live in fear of those TWO DAYS A YEAR of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). This might be because I used to have a condition that made me extremely nauseous whenever I was hungry. It’s gone now (thanks to Whole 30!) but the association of fasting with throwing up (and the fear) remains.

And this fear… usually makes me forget all about Lent. Well… at least to the point where I put it off until the night before, and then panic about what it is that I’m going to give up.

That changes this year.

Several weeks before Lent, I started actually wanting Lent to start. “I can’t wait for fish fries and stations!” Oh boy. Can you say, “retreat high”? I haven’t even been on one in years but after the best Christmas season ever that was how I reacted.

In the last few weeks, my prayers went a little something like this:

“Hi Jesus. It’s me. I’m looking forward to our trip into the desert. What should I bring? You know I like to travel. Furthermore could you please tell me what it is that you’d like me to do during these forty days? Whatever you say is fine, I can’t decide.”

And you know what he said?

Fast.

Woa woa woa hold up.

No way. For real?

Commence fear and trembling (and not the kind the Lord wants to see). I continued to pray about this. “Ok Jesus. Maybe I can consider this. Are you sure? Like are you really sure? I mean this is kind of a big thing for me.”

I’m sure.

So now we’re at the start of Lent. My prayer has changed again. A little less trusting, a little more fearful, a little less laudable:

“Ok Lord. I’m ready. I mean not really ready. But I’m coming into the desert with you anyways. I promise I’ll try to be good and not complain. I’ll tell you right now that I do NOT have the patience, fortitude, strength, endurance or will power required for this. I need your help. You’re the best teacher there is, and I know you love me. Please help me and please hold my hand and please carry me if necessary and please please please be with me. I promise you won’t have to drag me kicking and screaming and I will suck it up and trust you and not be a baby about this.”

I’m pretty sure he saw through my wishful thinking and knows I’m going to fail at this.

I feel like a little kid whose parents are going to climb a mountain. I don’t have the legs to do this but I want to come with them. And like that little kid, I’m going to trust that at some point, my dad’s going to carry me when it gets to be too much.

I know all of this is true, intellectually. Now I just need to make my heart be still.

So… how about you? Are you ready to set out into the desert?

Comment below and let me know what you’re planning to do for Lent.

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What Lent Means to Me

Throughout my years growing up in a Catholic family, I always looked forward to Lent. Kind of weird, I know. But I think it was because of all the traditions. I liked going to Stations of the Cross on Fridays, and watching the priest and altar servers walk from station to station, praying, kneeling, and chanting the Stabat Mater. It was 7:30 on a friday night, and the church was packed. Then we’d have cheese pizza in the church basement afterwards.

Faith was important in my family, and Lent represented it all: the promise of redemption and the knowledge that, though we screw up sometimes, God loves us more than we could ever imagine. Lent was a chance to get more serious about spirituality, say more rosaries, go to Mass, go to Confession, and remember how much God loves us.

A wise priest once told me that truth is important, but not more important than love. Sure, you have plenty of people who know all the ins and outs of theology, philosophy, and church history, but without love they truly are, as St. Paul said, “a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”. Then there’s the other extreme, people who are so open and accepting that they don’t have the will or the desire to speak the truth when necessary. As they say (and this applies to both extremes), “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We cannot lose sight of the truth, but we cannot lose sight of love either. We need both.

That is what Lent means to me. Yes, we screw up. Yes, we should be better. But God loves us anyways, and is always there to forgive us. It’s not about how many times you mess up, or how bad you’ve been. It’s about the fact that God loves us so much that he was willing to become one of us, and suffer an excruciating death for the chance that we might love him back.