Faith | Lent: it’s not about a self-improvement checklist

February 10, 2016

Lent: the infamous 40 days where we try to do everything all at once to improve ourselves.

How many times have you put together a list of all the things that you’ll give up and improve upon during the 40 day journey? I know that I’ve fallen into this way of thinking on more than one occasion. For whatever reason, Lent has become our New Year’s Resolutions part 2. Maybe this time, we can get it right. Maybe this time, we can do it all perfectly and check things off the list.

It’s not hard for me to come up with a list of things that I should change in order to become a better person and feel like I actually accomplished something before Easter. No sweets, no social media, go to the gym when I don’t feel like it, pray more, don’t buy any new clothes, only listen to music during workouts, etc. I could keep going. Seriously, I could.

But, why? Why am I obsessed with creating a better version of myself and seeing Lent as the equivalent to a health magazine’s “6 weeks to a 6-pack” promise?

Lent is so much more than a 40 day cleanse or kick start. Lent is an opportunity to grow in unity with the Lord and build a stronger relationship with the One who loves us.

I sent my list of Lent “to do’s” to my cousin to look over yesterday and asked for her honest feedback. She recently attended an event through a young adults group in our area and was asked to pare down the list of self-improvement to avoid getting caught up in the infamous check list mode we can all too easily relate to.

It was powerful for me to read. It was also a strong realization that I was getting sucked into the list of ways I could get better without real purpose or goals in mind. What am I trying to accomplish with a list of 6 things (which, in my mind, I thought was low!)?

Let me be really honest with you: I didn’t know.

I did and do know that I want to learn the true meaning of sacrifice this Lenten season in order to better understand the ways in which I can die to myself and the desires of my own heart. I like comfort, I like easy and I like things going my way. I also know that I’m not alone in these desires. But gosh, it sure is hard to admit it!

This year, I’m choosing to do 3 things that will be hard for me, but will require me to sacrifice what I want for the good of others in offering my time in different ways:

  • Go to daily Mass 2x/week: Give my time to the Lord
  • No Netflix or YouTube videos by myself: Give my time to the areas that need attention (i.e. putting away laundry, studying, workouts, etc.)
  • When friends & family invite me to go out or ask for help, say “yes”: Have the time to give to the people I love

I’m not opposed to self-improvement. I think it’s great! What I am opposed to is taking Lent as an opportunity to get better without understanding the true meaning of the season.

So, in light of these random thoughts & musings, I encourage you to simplify your checklist this Lenten season and enter into prayer to determine how you can have a dynamic experience. How can you journey with the Lord? In what ways can you build up your relationship with Him? How can you love Him better?

If you’re rather unsure about what you can do this Lent, keep in mind Pope Francis’ call for all of us to love & serve one another during this year of Mercy.

Still feeling a bit lost? Check out this great article by Catholic-Link.

I hope that you have a beautiful Lenten journey this year and that you grow ever closer to our Savior!

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