‘Tis the season for Catholics everywhere to mark our heads with ash, give up chocolate, eat fried fish on Fridays, and feel generally grouchy from caffeine withdrawal. It’s the time of year for us to do all the super-holy things that help us feel like we’re preparing for Easter. It’s time for us to ask each other, “What are you giving up?” It’s sacrifice season. It’s LENT.
In my family, Lent looks different than the time that surrounds it. We change the centerpiece on the table to incorporate purple and burlap and extra candles and usually some rocks or stones I got on clearance at the craft store. We say more prayers. We give more money to Catholic Relief Services. We eat more rice and beans. We go to extra church services and listen to different music around the house. It feels like we are going out of our way to sacrifice for each other (and we even keep track by putting sacrifice beans in a jar).
All of these things are good things to do. Sometimes, though, I wonder if my focus this time of year is all wrong. When did it become about all the things I am doing? How did I become so preoccupied with observing this season of penitence and preparation that I forgot what it was really about?
God doesn’t actually care if I eat chocolate or not. What matters to God is my heart. My focus during Lent should be not only on all these external activities, but on examining the thoughts and motives I bury deep within the fortress of my heart. Although God sees those things all the time, this season is my opportunity to bring them out into the light and take a good, hard look at them. It’s my opportunity to talk openly with God about what I hide away. It’s my chance to offer the sacrifice that God desires of me—my humble, contrite heart.
This Lent, in the middle of all the normal seasonal observances, I’m going to try to remember today’s Psalm, offer God my broken heart and ask Him to create a clean one for me.
Abbey Dupuy is a freelance writer and homeschooling mama to two-year-old twins, a first grader and a new baby. You can find out more about her here.