Holy Week is here!
I was a newly postpartum mommy when this awesome preparatory season began so I only started fully engaging Lent about halfway through. However, when I began brainstorming prayerful sacrifices, it made me remember my most fruitful sacrifices.
What makes a fruitful Lenten sacrifice? In my experience, prayerful reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of my relationship with God and an honest admittance of what's standing in the way of making it deeper. What virtues do I need to grow in? Humility? Trust? Prudence? These questions go a long way in prayer, and they led to my top three most powerful seasons of Lent.
3. Netflix (and all other video content)
In the middle of college, I was STRUGGLING with many things, including self-isolation and restlessness. In my pre-Lenten reflection, I realized that I avoided positive social situations and silence of all kind by staying CONSTANTLY plugged in. I mean, I watched TV day and night. I was always on the computer. Netflix and YouTube videos while doing homework. Netflix and YouTube videos while going to sleep; I never, ever stopped. I was avoiding serious tsunamis of anxiety that were always right around the corner, and the more I avoided, the larger the tsunamis became. So, with a counselor's help and a priest's guidance, I stopped avoiding the silence. I read, I cried, I prayed, I made coffee dates with great women, I slept, I healed.
Fruit: Though I got crushed once or twice by the tsunamis that I had been trying to keep at bay, within weeks my anxiety had immensely improved. I lost my fear of silence, and I discovered Divine Intimacy for the first time
My first year as a FOCUS missionary was similar to the process of transforming grapes into wine - sweet, crushing and transforming all at the same time. As Lent began, my heart was aching and I was more vulnerable with the Lord than I ever had been. I was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus during His Agony, and in many ways, I was experiencing my own. And I was completely set on convincing everyone around me that I was fine. The people closest to me were not convinced at all. I did not need to expose the secrets and ache of my heart to the world, but I did need to detach myself from makeup and the facade of having it all together and being a-okay. To date, this was the hardest sacrifice I had ever made, because from middle school up until then, I could count on one hand the number of times I left the house without wearing makeup. At one point, I cried for feeling so insecure, and stomped my feet on the ground, yelling, "I feel awful! I don't want anyone to know! I want my mascara, I want my lipgloss!"
Fruit: I was deeply uncomfortable with myself as I was -- I thought I had been vulnerable with Christ before, but it was time to go much, much deeper. The Lord revealed lifelong wounds and gently started to heal them during this time of enormously vulnerable prayer. I had already become tolerant of silence, but now I began to dive into Silence as the Lord's love language. I detached myself from the need to wear makeup, and became okay with not being okay, even if other people could tell. I listened to the Lord whispering Truths in my ear, including that my Beauty has nothing to do with makeup. Better than listening, I began to believe it.
1. Texting my boyfriend
For this one, I have to give a shout out to my friend Lindsey. In 2014, Lindsey shared with me the story of how she and her husband discerned marriage, and one Lent, they did not communicate with each other at all except by letter-writing. Intense? Yes. Purifying? You bet! So in 2016, when I started to date Patrick long distance and Lent approached, I proposed a junior option: that we stop communicating via text message. During Lent, we were challenged to make time for each other in different ways every day. We had standing Skype dates 2 times a week and called each other at free times during the rest of the week, writing letters when we couldn’t talk on the phone.
Fruit: Freeing ourselves from texting gave us the clarity to see that we really wanted to take the time for each other. Because we did not have the instant gratification of texting, the anticipation of our calls was incredibly sweet and every time we talked, we were present and intentional with one another. The hiatus from texting gave us the space in our prayer lives to really listen to God and His call, in our case, to marriage. It kept our relationship from escalating too quickly and simultaneously allowed us to get to know each other really well through our phone calls and letters. Hands down, this was the most fruitful Lenten sacrifices of either of our lives.
It's never too late in the Lent go all in for your relationship with the Lord. Even reflecting on the Grace I received in the past opened my heart to the Lord in the present, and who doesn't want that?
What's the best Lent you've ever had?