I am not at all fond of Lent. Is anyone?
February happens to be my least favorite time of year ... The weather is gray, the fun and excitement of the holidays are over, and now Lent calls us get through long, dull, indoor days without our favorite comforts like chocolate or television?
Late winter is hard enough. It might be easier to be open to sacrifice during the easy, comfortable days of summer, but I would never choose a late-winter Lent on my own.
But here’s something I have been thinking about this Ash Wednesday:
My kids hate it when I make them eat their vegetables before having dessert. They complain loudly when I force them to struggle through difficult school assignments or take a bath when there are more interesting things to do.
But I make them do difficult things because I love them and want what’s best for them. Sometimes the difficult thing is the best thing for us. Sometimes the difficult thing is best for us because it’s difficult.
Left to our own devices, we all too easily lose ourselves to the comfort of easy living and attachment to material goods. Especially those of us fortunate enough to live lives of relative indulgence with ample food, nice clothes, cars, and entertainment, stand to benefit greatly from an uncomfortable, obligatory season of sacrifice.
Mother Church knows what’s best for us—and She sees that we do it—even when we don’t want to.
During Lent, the Church nudges us toward growth through increased prayer, austerity, and sacrifice. She does this because it’s what is best for us and what will ultimately lead us to true happiness.
If we never gave up the comforts we enjoy, we would never truly know the sweetness of Easter.
If you haven’t already chosen something to give up this Lent, check out Tom Hoopes’s list for inspiration.
Then, if you are still uncertain, here are 3 ways to help you determine what might be standing between you and spiritual growth this Lent:
1. Ask Yourself. If Jesus were to walk through your front door this afternoon, what would you be most embarrassed for him to catch you doing? Watching TV or wasting time? Grousing at your spouse or kids? Gossiping? Overeating? Maybe it’s time to remove or cut down on that embarrassing habit.
2. Ask Others. If you dared to ask your spouse, children, or friends what your greatest flaw is (and they dared to answer) what would they say? If you really aren’t sure, you might try asking this question in a non-threatening way: “If you could change one thing about me or our relationship, what would it be?” Listen to their answers without defensiveness.
3. Ask God. Carve 15 minutes out of your day today. Sit quietly somewhere alone, ask God to show you what he wants most from you this Lent, and then sit still and listen. Don’t pray. Don’t talk. If you feel yourself balk at a thought or idea of something to give up, force yourself to consider it completely. God nudges more often that he shouts. Listen to the nudging with an open heart and mind.
Today, the Church marks us with ashes and commands us to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
However uncomfortable it might make us, we all have he same duty today and for the next 40 days: Listen to your Mother!