I don’t know about you, but usually around this time in the Lenten season I feel really bad because I totally suck at Lent. During the rest of the year I do a fair job with my daily prayer, giving my time, talent and treasure. Maybe I’m just being hard on myself but by week two of Lent I realize how much I’m failing. This year I really thought hard about what I should “give up” for Lent, we all sat at the dining table on Ash Wednesday and decided what each of us would do. We decided as a family to give up pizza, something that we all enjoy a little too often in our house. The kids gave up the usual treats, video games, and I agreed but I still was thinking on something that was a real challenge for me. My husband begged me not to give up caffeine (something I’ve done in the past that obviously didn’t go well) and I begged my daughter not to give up meat (something she’s done in the past that was more penance for me than for her). After the kids went to bed I sat and thought about it some more and then I knew what I needed to give up; I was going to give up an hour of sleep each day. Anyone that knows me could affirm the fact that I’m not a morning person. I planned on waking each morning by 6:00 to spend the hour before the kids got up to read scripture and pray. The next day my husband woke me up at 5:00am because his back went out and he needed help getting up to go to the bathroom. The rest of the day involved me taking him to the appointments and playing nurse. The following day wasn’t much better and I was up again at 1am with my teething toddler that wouldn’t go back to sleep. Needless to say I was exhausted. This is how it’s been for me the since Ash Wednesday, sleepless nights which result in me sleeping through my alarm. In a way I’m still giving up sleep but I can’t help the feelings of failure. I guess that’s the whole point of Lent, to show us how much we really need God’s mercy. I didn’t come to this conclusion until I saw Father Mike Schmitz’s video about why we fast. Fasting is about just saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit, to ask for help when we are struggling and to use the suffering that we experience to go deeper into our prayers. Yesterday I read a prayer that really helped drive the message in deeper:
Disturb us O Lord when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed to little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us O Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity. And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, O Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push us in the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
Sir Francis Drake wrote this in 1577 before he set out to be the first man to circumnavigate the world and yet it is so true even in modern times. We all have so much and have let materialism (the glamour of evil) take hold of us and distract us from the ultimate treasure, eternal life in heaven. We get comfortable with everyday routine and we forget that it’s in the disturbances that we grow in our faith. If you are looking to go deeper this Lent please know that it is not too late, I’ll list a few links below with options that friends of mine are participating in and I pray that you are challenged this Lent just as I am because it is in the struggles of life that we are a true witness to God’s beautiful mercy!
Ascension Press – Great videos by Father Mike Schmitzs explain the Catholic teachings in a way everyone can understand.