Coming off an Easter break and I’m happy to say everyone is healthy. Fulton would like to personally thank the makers of Tamiflu, and I would like to thank my in-laws for running our house for two days while I lived on the edge of death…or felt like it. It was the Lenty-est of Lents right up until the last-minute, but thankfully we’ve been living it up during the Easter Octave with only the occasional digestive upset due to candy overload.
A few times this week I caught myself thinking I couldn’t have or do something, then remembered it was no longer Lent. Obviously, I was relieved, however upon reflection, I realized that there were several lessons (maybe seven??) that typically strike me after Lent, but tend to get forgotten quickly afterwards, usually during the ensuing sugar coma. This year, I’d like to jot them down for posterity’s sake.
1. Feasts are better after the fast. Those first pieces of candy, and can of Coke, tasted SO DAMN GOOD. Snacks all the live long day and tons of meat with every meal? Tears of joy.
But even now, after a few days, the feelings have died down. Eating an entire bag of Cadberry mini-eggs (my weakness) for the second time, is not nearly as satisfying as the first. We’re a supersized, immediate gratification society whose logo is the all you can eat buffet. The idea that gluttony is a sin is lost on pretty much everyone, even me most of the year. But how much better is food, and drink, and many, many other things, when we don’t binge on them all the time? Scrolling through Easter pictures on social media ALL DAY on Sunday was so fun, and made me smile. Scrolling through Facebook for hours any other day rarely gives me that same feeling.
2. We can always start over. No one is good at Lent. I saw a quote on Twitter that if you think you’re good at Lent, you haven’t chosen the right penance. I agree. And so I admit to sucking at several of my Lenten disciplines….repeatedly. However, I no longer allow myself to get discouraged and give up. I hit up confession and get back to it. And I try to see why I slipped up in the first place so I can learn from my failures rather than beat myself up for them.
3. Lent builds perseverance. Doing something for 40 days is hard, but how quickly it becomes a habit. Other times of the year, it seems impossible for me to stick with something or develop a new habit, yet during Lent, I manage to stick with my penances for 40 days. There is actually very little that I absolutely cannot live without. There is much I choose to do, or consume, simply because I want to, not because I need it in anyway. I am stronger than my vices and bad habits.
4. Sometimes God chooses our penances for us and we need to lay our own plans aside and take the cross we’re given. This is a great way for us to learn humility. Typically, I get indignant, and ask God to kindly butt out of my Lent which is going very solemnly thankyouverymuch. So this year, when I got sick and couldn’t do everything, I knew rationally what lesson I was to learn, I just didn’t want to learn that lesson right now when I had stuff I needed to do. But that’s the Lent I needed (and not the hours of quiet spiritual reading). I just LOVE standing in the way of my own greater spiritual good.
5. There is no good time to suffer, however, during Lent I find it easier to empathize with others experiencing great hardship and spiritual struggles and I often am better about praying for others promptly (when I first learn of a problem) and repeatedly. Thinking of others facing tragedy puts my own small Lenten practices, and life, in perspective and it seems easier to bear my own crosses.
6. It’s easier to do good and to stick with my Lenten penances when I plan. Not planning meatless meals, or allowing junk food in the house is a recipe for disaster. The temptation is often too overwhelming. Saying I’ll attend confession more frequently but never arriving at church in time to go, or not properly examining my conscience when I know I have time to go is setting myself up for failure. It really only takes a bit more time and effort to make it easy to make the right choice and conversely, avoid a bad choice that will set me back physically and spiritually.
7. Complaining makes everything 202,039 times worse. I try not to complain during Lent when everything is extra sucky because 1. then my kids complain more about not getting dessert and 2. that’s part of the ‘fun’ of Lent; growing in holiness by not complaining about the growing pains. But the rest of the year (and when dealing with the Lenten penances God surprised me with), I seem to like making things worse by complaining.
I seem to find it easier to stick with things during Lent that I otherwise struggle with, though I’m sure God will assist me with all these things the rest of the year as well if I remain mindful of them.
What did Lent teach you this year? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link by to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!