Lent is almost here. I don’t have my plan ready yet, but I am working on it. I know one thing, it will be little, nothing big, perhaps more than one little thing, but definitely not a big grand plan.
I used to want to really prove my love for Jesus during Lent. I wanted to do big, elaborate, grand things for Him, who has done so much for me. I’ve often heard it preached that a good Lenten sacrifice consists of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. And so in years past, I wanted to fast every Friday, not just Good Friday. I promised to completely remove television from my life. I planned to give up all sugar and carbs as well. I arranged to be at the soup kitchen twice a month. I committed to a holy hour every day, stations of the cross on Friday afternoons and a daily Chaplet of Diving Mercy, in addition to my usual prayer routine. I never really got a handle on the almsgiving part but boy, was I ready to nail the prayer and fasting! And then Lent would begin, and I would usually get off to a good start for at least a few hours, sometimes even a few days, before I would fall, flat.on.my.face. Ouch. Sorry Lord. Please forgive me.
There is really nothing wrong with that, having good intentions and then falling on my face. I should expect it. In theory I should just pick myself up and try again. But for me, the bruises on my face were a bit distracting and the climb back up to my grand expectations a bit daunting, so I decided to pray and listen, and see if there wasn’t a better way for me to attack Lent.
What came to me was that Lent was more about changing my heart in a lasting way and less about attacking my habits for 40 days before Easter. Lent is more about effecting a change in me to be more focused on our Lord, and less about proving anything. (Who was I kidding? Prove my love to Jesus? The last I heard He is all-knowing.)
I knew that if I was going to make lasting changes, I needed to start small, because I would fall. Picking myself up from a fall of great heights would be too arduous and the bruises too painful. On the other hand, I find falling from a short distance quite recoverable.
So these are some of the small things that have started as a Lenten promise for me, but have become a part of my life.
I picked a beautiful photo of Saint Joseph and Jesus and made it my screen saver. Each time I see it, I pray to Saint Joseph and ask him to intercede for me and my family.
I put a picture of Jesus on my key chain and every time I saw it, I kissed him and told him that I loved him.
I use my passwords for prayer. I change them to reflect a prayerful attitude that I am struggling with, or trying to adopt. For example, creative secure versions of: forgivehim, praiseHim, Letgo, changemyheart.
I placed a copy of the litany of humility inside a cabinet that I open daily. Each time I open the cabinet, I pray the prayer.
If I am alone in the car, I drive in silence. Turning off the music helps me to quiet my mind. Quieting my mind helps me to hear our Lord.
I no longer worry about falling, because I’m confident that from this height, I can get back on track. I just pray and keep trying. Maybe one day I’ll make enough progress in the little things to be able to move on to a grander plan for Lent, but I think I’ve left the “attack” behind for good. What are you planning for Lent?