Alright folks. One week down. How is everyone doing? Been perfect so far?
I admit, I already had a Lenten slip-up. This year, for better or worse, I didn’t mention what I was offering up for Lent on my personal site. In retrospect, I usually fail at it, which not only means I’m unintentionally bragging about what I’m doing, I’m being hypocritical too. That being said, we are a communal faith and we have each other to help us remember God’s grace when we are tempted or fail to live up to our standards.
In that light, let’s check-in with each other.
I’m doing a few different things for Lent. One is a spiritual practice, to simply get closer to God. Another is removing a useful tool that I abuse from my life, more of a Catholic New Year’s Resolution. Another is simply a sacrifice for the sake of the sacrifice.
I’m addicted to my iPod Touch. It isn’t even an iPhone, which is probably good as I’d be on it far more often when I’m out of the house. It’s incredibly useful. I can plow through e-mail, keep up with everyone on Facebook and Twitter. It’s great, except I had fallen into a deep pit of constantly using it. While Lent isn’t supposed to be simply not doing things you shouldn’t be doing already, I used the timing to drop it cold turkey.
The great thing about this one is breaking this practice is hard. The iPod is surely dead by now (I left it on and put it in a drawer last Tuesday night), so not only would I have to go into the drawer, but I’d have to plug it in too. In short, despite my reflex to reach for it still forcing my hand, this one is easy. I’ve surprised myself by not cheating (even on Sunday).
The sacrifice-for-the-sake-of-sacrifice has been my troublesome one. I love coffee. In the rankings of life, coffee is in the top 10 easy. If I ever seemed like a jerk, it is because I hadn’t had my morning, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, or early evening cup. (A very slight hyperbole, very slight). I’m not a real man, though, and don’t drink it black. For Lent, I’m sacrificing the sugar.
I’ve cheated twice. On Sunday, I had sugar in my coffee at breakfast. Olivia loves to help me with my coffee and really wanted me to let her give me sugar for my coffee. It was Sunday, a “little Easter”. I’m of two minds on the debate of Lenten sacrifices applying on Sundays, but it’s just a little sugar from my little girl. Yesterday, though, I just gave it and sugared up one cup.
In my defense, without sugar, I haven’t drank as much coffee. Cold coffee with sugar is fine enough, but without. Bleh. The reduced about of coffee though made getting through the day with two toddlers less like my heaven-of-always-having-my-kids-with-me to a purgatory. Either way, it is supposed to be a sacrifice, right?
I admire the people that can decide on their Lenten practices (before Ash Wednesday) then execute flawlessly through the season. Except for not drinking sodas in 8th grade (my first Lent as a practicing Catholic), I haven’t done it.
That’s the beauty of Lent. It is a season of preparation for Easter. This is the time for us to rid ourselves of what is holding us back from God. No, sugar in my coffee is not keeping me from God, but a time for us to detach ourselves from what is secondary in life and reaffirm our commitment to what is primary—God and His place for us in the world.
Our pilgrim journey toward the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter is not meant for the saint; it is meant for the sinner to be transformed into a saint. By purposely walking toward God, we are striving to walk away from the God-less, be it temptation from the devil or apathy or ignorance. We aren’t always ready for Easter on Ash Wednesday, nor are we asked to be.
The ashes of Ash Wednesday are to remind us that we “are dust to dust shall [we] return”, inviting us to “repent, and believe in the Gospel”. The prayer of blessing for the ashes ask that as we “follow the Lenten observances, [we] may be worth to come with minds made pure to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of [His] Son.” We’re to purify ourselves during Lent, not expected to always have pure minds when we start (though we should!).
If you have already slipped up or cheated on your Lenten practices this year, don’t despair. Use it as a reminder of how far we all have to go to reach the perfection we are destined to strive toward and begin anew. If you haven’t figured out what you’re doing for Lent this year, you can still start today.
Our goal isn’t to be perfect from day one, it is to reach the perfection found in Christ.