Does Lent feel like a season for frustration and irritation? A time of complaining about all our discomforts, voluntary or otherwise? Do your good intentions feel somehow unappreciated or worthless? Does your extra prayer or acts of service seem empty, aimless or uncertain? If so, you might be focusing on the wrong thing this Lent…
Lent is about receiving, not taking. When we make plans for how we think our Lent should go or what we will get out of it, we are attempting to take, not to receive.
God designs our seasons and he will give us what He knows we need most… but we have to be open to it. When we attempt to take for ourselves what we think we need, or make resolutions in order to “look good”, our efforts will undoubtedly be thwarted. This is what makes us so often become disheartened, bitter or senile. Mother Theresa always said, “A sad saint is a bad saint”… or, in other words, not a saint at all, no matter how many grumpy sacrifices we accomplish for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, this is problem is so common, the cause so misunderstood.
This is what makes our Lent feel like a desert…
But Lent isn’t supposed to feel like a desert, it is supposed to feel like a flood!
Water is powerful and multifaceted. It is devastating yet crucial to survival. It erodes rock, carves valleys, cleanses air and enables life. Lent is a downpour, a waterfall, a FLOOD. It comes crashing in to make all things new, to begin again.
Lent is a chance to examine our routine, a chance for stepping back and changing focus, a chance to deep clean our souls. When we start to change things up and move things around we can see the lurking grime that has been slowly and secretly building up and eating away at the peace in our center. When we genuinely start to change our focus, the waters of prayer, little sacrifices and offerings, extra love and the little things become surprisingly satiating to the deep permeating, nagging thirst that we have learned to ignore because we are so accustomed to it.
Lent is refreshing. We start to feel rejuvenated without even realizing it. When you are finally able to surrender and embrace the changes it entails, that nearly forgotten thirst returns to the forefront of our minds and we can’t get enough. The waters of Lent begin to permeate the drought of our parched souls washing away the dust and debris that has been accumulating there, bringing all that was dying back to life.
But sometimes we build up a dam. We make a man-made barrier to hold back the waters destined to shape our landscape. We hold back the waters that are meant to feed our souls because we think we know better than the One who sends the rain. How do we know the change we fear will be so bad?
Have we created our own desert by holding back the floodgates?
7 steps to a more refreshing, better Lent:
1) Temporarily forget all your fancy resolutions
2) Ask God what HE wants you to get out of this Lent
3) Practice Silence (interior and exterior) so that you can hear His response
4) Take on the daily crosses and irritations that are sent your way in a spirit of cheerfulness (not fake exuberance, but rather, without complaining)
5) Ask God to explain the meaning of the crosses He sends you – maybe journal about what you think the answers may be
6) At Easter, take time to reflect – What did it seem like God’s theme for your Lent was? Did He want you to focus most on your relationship with Him? With others? With yourself? What virtue did He most ask you to practice? gratitude? patience? temperance? humility? – Thank Him for what He seems to be teaching you
7) Don’t look back – keep the changes Lent made in your life – It is the beginning of a renewal, not the end