Lent begins next Wednesday! Traditionally, the Catholic Church teaches there are three pillars of Lent: Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.
For today’s #Worthrevisit linkup with Allison at Reconciled to You, and Elizabeth at Theologyisaverb, I want to readdress the concept of Lent – and, the notion that, even while an individual may be exempt from “traditional” fasting rules, we are still able to fast in a more non-traditional way.
Fellow Catholic blogger, Rosie, previously wrote about why nursing and pregnant mamas should not fast. I won’t go into the reason she gives, but I encourage all moms and moms-to-be to take her words to heart.
This past fall, as the Catholic blogging community geared up for the time of reparation known as #sackclothandashes, I wrote:
Fasting is supposed to bring us closer to God, and we are supposed to undertake fasting for penitential purposes as a measure which is intentional – which sees us deepening our relationship with our Creator.
Undertaking fasting for penitential reasons is supposed to bring us closer to God, and deepen our relationship with our Creator.
Historically, when it comes to Lent, I give in to temptation within the first week or week and a half. On the extremely rare occasions in which I “succeeded” in giving up something entirely, I haven’t found myself growing closer to God. Instead, I find myself resenting the entire forty days; or, I slip into the sin of pride, patting myself on the back for “winning.”
Therefore, last Lent, I decided to embark on an entirely different journey through the forty days. Rather than give up one thing, I made an intentional decision to give up something – not any one thing – every day from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday. And, upon reflection, last Lent was the most spiritually rewarding Lent I have ever experienced!
I found myself growing closer to God through the intentional act of giving up something I truly desired in the moment, every single day. In addition to the intentionality, I also surprised myself by spending more time in spontaneous prayer with God throughout the day.
For example, some days I would start the day letting God know I was giving up creamer in my coffee; then, sitting in the drive-thru, I found myself moved to not get the drink I wanted, and rather order a water or unsweetened tea. I wholeheartedly believe the random whispers to forgo what my heart wanted lead me to invite God into my day in a more conscientious manner.
This notion also allowed me to make Lent a more personal journey. Since my children are too young to fully conceptualize the forty day journey in the desert, giving something different up every day allowed me to focus on the personal journey I was experiencing, rather than playing warden for my younger children in the home.
Looking back, what I truly gave up last Lent was something that was not quite tangible. I gave up my heart’s desires.
Whatever my heart decided it wanted that specific day led me to acts of fasting… giving up what my heart desired led me to spend more time in deep prayer – not simply checking off a block, but rather in a more spontaneous manner… giving up what my heart desired led me to focus on giving to others, when I wanted to keep to myself.
Preparing for this Lent made me realize just how the three pillars of Lent were inadvertently achieved last year.
For the first time in my cradle-Catholic life existence, I truly felt I walked away from Lent with an understanding of what it means to sacrifice – not in a painful sacrificial way, but perhaps in a manner which was more spiritually connected with the reason and the introspective nature of Lent.
I recognize I struggle with discipline. I don’t like to “have” to do things. And, while I am slowly working on increasing my personal discipline, I know that I am a work in progress. Given my tendency to trend toward scrupulosity, last year’s Lenten approach was perhaps beautifully rewarding in so many ways.
I admit what worked for me last year – and, I hope what will work for me this year – will not work for everyone. So, if you are trying to determine precisely what to give up – or, if you want a few more ideas than the twenty-five posted above, be sure to check out this guide of 50 Unique Ideas compiled by Brittany over at Equipping Godly Women. Brittany even created a worksheet to help each woman narrow down what they may most likely benefit from giving up.
Giving up my heart’s desires made me more intentional. That intentionality led me closer to God. And, that closeness with God has reaped indescribable rewards in the aftermath of Lent 2018.
So, this Lent, I encourage you, dear reader, to take a moment to figure out how you will become more intentional surrounding the three pillars of Lent: Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.
How will you fast on the designated days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?
What will you fast from, or abstain from, during the traditional time between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?
How will you deepen and enrich your prayer life?
How will you give of yourself, for the benefit of others?
If this piece resonates with you in any manner, I invite you to share it with others you think may find it beneficial… and, as always, dear reader, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!
If you would like to know more about other Catholic thoughts on this #WorthRevisit Wednesday, don’t forget to visit Allison and Elizabeth’s linkup…