So we have officially a day or so to figure out what kind of fasting we will observe during lent this year. Often-times we look upon lent with the kind of weariness that often accompanies yet another thing to do. But Lent is more than just giving something up, or having another thing to do. The discipline of Lent leads one closer to God by becoming more grounded and cognizant of where God is in their lives. It is a practice in humility as it is in self-discovery, and discovery of God in ordinary things. This Lent I will be giving up meat & dairy as well as having an extra fast on Fridays. That may seem like a lot, but everyone should have a unique approach that fits them. Not every Lent is the same either, and as one participates in a Lenten discipline they develop spiritually as well as in discipline. Everyone is different and everyone is in a different place spiritually so whatever discipline you choose during Lent make sure it fits you but also challenges you. Just remember, everyone is on a journey with God, it's useless to compare yourself to others. Jesus was clear in saying that even those who look most holy often aren't. Be like the widow who gave a small coin, though it was all she had (she gave her all no matter how small).
The real heart of Lent is also about detachment from things or detachment from desires and pleasures. It gives the ability of true freedom of being able to enjoy something without feeling entrapped by it. An easy example is to ponder for a moment, what would happen if your phone was to be completely smashed and you were not going to be able to have a replacement for a good while. Does that cause anxiety? The deeper question is, are you free from the desire of the phone or not? Truly we should be free to leave everything for Christ which is easier said than done. Which brings us back to why God has given us the discipline of Lent leading up into Easter. There is true freedom in Christ so long as we make him King of our lives. It is difficult to make God centered in our lives if we also have many attachments on pleasures, desires, & things. This is to say that the many things, particularly phones, are very good! But even something as good as a phone cannot replace God.
When choosing something to give up for Lent, ask yourself, what are some attachments that exist in my life that build walls between me and God? They may not be huge, and don’t forget there is always time to modify your discipline. The important thing like all things Christian is to realize if we fail even in the last week or few days of Lent, we can always get back up and try again. God wishes for us to give our very best, sometimes we fail; but to give our best means getting back in the saddle especially when it’s tough. God knows your heart, so be open with him in prayer. Also, a great way to kick off Lent is to reconcile ourselves with God through reconciliation. It’s difficult to take on a discipline when we know in the back of our minds or deep within our hearts we carry a mountain, or even a pebble (ever have a pebble in your shoe?). As challenging as it may be, schedule a visit with any priest! It doesn’t have to be any particular priest, what is important is to open yourself up to the mercy of God and make the most of Lent.
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since 2011.