Like a new year, Ash Wednesday can come with excitement, plans, and goals. We are determined that this Lent will be the best Lent ever!
Perhaps you had at the ready your Blessed is She Lenten Journal, your regular journal, your BIS Journaling Bible, your other Bible, a handful of spiritual books, your Rosary, your Bible study group, your small group study, your devotionals, and your plans to give up chocolate, to exercise each day, and not to let a negative word leave your lips.
Maybe you planned to never raise your voice at your kids or get irritated with your husband. You were not going to get impatient commuting to work, or think a single negative thought about your annoying coworker (or student or classmate), or procrastinate on any of your papers or studies.
This Lent you were ready to become the saint you are called to be. All by Easter Sunday.
And then perhaps, life happened and you may have found that it has been more difficult to stay committed to your Lenten practices than you expected. When you notice that you haven’t stayed true to this year’s Lenten commitments (or maybe you have even forgotten some of the things you wanted to do this Lent), you might be tempted to throw in the towel.
But I’m here to tell you that if you if you are feeling like you’ve “failed” at Lent, it’s fine! You are not alone, (I’m with you too), and it’s not too late. Lent is still here and there is still time for God to work!
Let God Work
I have lived through a few Lents trying to do “all the things.” I added in more Adoration and joined Bible studies, said Rosaries, went to daily Mass, added in spiritual reading, and reading of Scripture, and quiet prayer time, and another small group, too.
All this in addition to giving up a couple favorite foods, not listening to music in the car, and refraining from buying extra things for myself. It got to be too much. I not only couldn’t do all of those good things, but I also kept forgetting them, which ultimately was me forgetting the real purpose behind trying to do them in the first place! Eventually it ended in a sort of Lenten “spiritual burnout.”
After eventually trying to learn from those experiences, I went to the other extreme. Instead of trying to do all the things for Lent, I did nothing. That’s right, the Lenten penance I chose was to do “nothing.” I did not go to Bible study or a small group. I did not pressure myself to go to Adoration or pray a daily Rosary.
Instead, I would go into the chapel and be still. I would sit there and do “nothing.” Rather than doing a million good things, I focused on being. It was fruitful, and also very challenging. What I considered doing “nothing” was actually creating space for God and allowing “Him” to do a wonderful “something” within my soul.
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Being Vs. Doing
I’m not saying you should quit your Bible study or small group or that you should stop going Mass and Adoration or that you should stop praying the Rosary. Of course not. But sometimes there is value in doing less and being more.
What I learned from letting go of trying to do so many good things is that holiness is less about all the things I do, and more about what God does in me. All of my “doing” was getting in the way of you actually “being” with God. Ultimately, I needed a radical shift to let God in and for Him to work.
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Renewal and Encouragement for Lent
If you feel like your Lent is not going so great, and that maybe you’re “failing” at Lent consider the following:
1. Let God work.
Perhaps you can take a moment to simply invite God to come and do the work of holiness and conversion within you. The heart of Lent is simply returning to the Lord and inviting Him to work within us. If you feel like you are nothing, you have nothing to offer, or especially if you feel like you have done nothing so far this Lent, consider inviting God to act, just like He did in the beginning in Genesis. Let Him create something good and beautiful in you “out of nothing.” Ask Him work in you.
2. Learn something.
What have you learned about yourself this Lent? What have you done well? Not so well? Why? What have been the challenges this Lent? How will you show up for the remainder of Lent?
3. Feel free to adjust.
It’s totally fine to change your Lenten commitments halfway through if you feel like something different might serve you better. Ask God if He’d like you to do something different or to keep your original plans.
4. Get support.
What kind of support do you need to have this remaining time of Lent be fruitful and positive for you? Can you ask a friend to go to Adoration with you or to take a weekly Rosary walk? Do you need to place your Bible or journal on a clear space, perhaps on your nightstand, so that you will see it more easily and be reminded to pray first thing in the morning? What about setting an alarm on your phone at 3 p.m. if you’ve committed to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet? A stickie-note on the bathroom mirror with a Scripture quote or reminder to stay committed to positive thoughts rather than criticism throughout the day?
Make shifts in your environment around you, invite others to join you, and find ways to add in little supports to help you stay accountable. Get creative and have fun. Lent is a time of penance and sacrifice, but our sacrifices can also be joyful and life-giving.
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5. Begin again.
The spiritual life is about beginning again, returning to the Lord and starting over. Simply start again. Today. Right now. It doesn’t matter if you only got to read your BIS Lenten Journal the first day of Lent or haven’t even begun. If that is something that you feel may be helpful and supportive to you now, why not pick it up today and start right where you are?
Lent is About Holiness
Lent is here for you. It is here to help you and support you in holiness. But remember, this is God’s work. He is the one who will ultimately do it in you. See what happens if you can stop, let go, and truly allow God to work. Wherever you are and however your Lent is going, turn to Him today, right now, and begin again.
How are your Lenten sacrifices and promises going? What encouragement do you need as we near Easter? Let us know in the comments. We will pray for you!
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Mary Catherine Craige enjoys spending her time creating art, writing, and playing her Irish harp. She uses her experience as a Montessori teacher and catechist to serve young children through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. As a life coach, she encourages and challenges women in all walks of life to more deeply discover their purpose and live their full potential. You can find out more about her here.