March 8, 2017

Lent: Not About The Perfect Start

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Lent is a season that pushes us  out of our comfort zones and asks us to dig deep and feel the burn of denying ourselves so that we can follow Christ better.  

That being said, it is also my least favorite season…probably because I need it so much.

I think it was about my sophomore year of college when Lent finally “clicked” with me.  It wasn’t just about giving up cable TV or chocolate for 6 weeks… it was a journey into deeper intimacy with the Lord.  And as I came to understand it as a journey, I also realized how important it was to prepare for that walk in the desert.  

I’d prepare by spending some extra time in prayer, usually in the adoration chapel, journaling my Lenten commitments so that I had a clear goal in mind. And the preparations weren’t limited to prayer; I would also try to get my living space as clean as possible before the Lenten journey began.  Sometimes I would rearrange the furniture in my bedroom, or just give it an early spring cleaning.  This was a way for me to enter into Lent with a breath of fresh air, a renewed mindset, and the visual difference in my environment helped me to focus on the fact that I was entering into a whole new season.  

Oh the glorious Lenten preparations of my life as a single woman in my early twenties!  

Fast forward about ten years.  

Married, two kids 2 and under, working full-time, and my husband and my daughter catch the flu (or something) a few days before Ash Wednesday.  

I made plans early in the week to clean our bedroom, the living room, the kitchen….  I was going to journal, perhaps even write my first blog post for the year to kick off the season with a bang!  Maybe I’d get some extra time in the prayer space my husband created for me for my birthday.  Such plans!!!

Tuesday night I found myself in a living room of unfolded laundry, mountains of tissues, a fussy toddler, and after kids were asleep I had to run up to the Church to get some things set up for the Ash Wednesday Masses the next morning.  Though I did manage to get to the sacrament of reconciliation that evening, by the end of the day I mostly felt disappointed.  

I wasn’t ready.  How on earth could I possibly have a good Lent if my house is dirty, my family is sick, and I haven’t spent time in prolonged silent prayer?  And to top it off I could feel the cold coming after me too!  I went to bed frustrated and thought, If I can’t start Lent perfectly, according to my plan then what’s the point?!

Oh wait… 

In those final moments of the day, I realized that perhaps I’d been focusing too much on starting Lent perfectly.   I had been trying so hard to replicate the “perfect preparations” of my early 20s that I had forgotten to ask God to help me in the here and now.  I’m not who I was at 19, 20, or 21 years old.  My relationship with God and my spiritual life have changed a lot even since getting married 3 years ago!  Why would I expect to start this journey in the same way I had almost a decade before?  

I had forgotten that God doesn’t ask us to enter into Lent with a clean slate and then maintain perfection until Easter Sunday.  No, instead He invites us to take up our cross, wherever we are, and follow Him.  He invites us to turn towards Him with our mess, our pain, our weakness so that through the Lenten journey He c
an make us new.  

Do I have an idea of the praying, fasting and almsgiving that God is calling me to offer this Lenten season?  Yes.  Am I perfectly prepared for what’s ahead these next 6 weeks?  Nope.  And that’s OK.  

Lord, meet us in our mess this Lent.
 Meet us in the chaos, the confusion, the messy house.  
Meet us in the snot covered noses of our children,
and the never ending lists of things to do.
Draw us close to you, even though we are imperfect.  
Lord, you make all things new.  Make us new this Lenten season.


  1. Love this. And incidentally, you shared on Facebook the Best Lent Ever. I read and signed up. The post on not to worry gave me courage to go to the doctor Ash Wednesday morning. One little share, and for some reason I clicked even though I had been writing an mini-article for our Parish to get folks to sign up.
    I had been hurting a bit on my scar from surgery two years ago. I just kept trying to ignore it and say to myself I am too busy for this! I have kids to raise and dishes to wash while I work. I don’t have time.

    Well, something about engouragment of not to worry made me go to the emergency clinic. I had not just a booboo but it was gnarly. And two days later they said if I had not have come in the gnarly would have put me in the hospital.
    So even though you might be busy and overwhelmed you distance blessed this old gal with your little post and kept me from a huge mess for my health. I pinky promised Jesus, I would not put ” me” on the shelf to take care of later any longer.

    • Praise God for the promptings of the Holy Spirit! I’m glad you got checked out and that things were not worse! Praying for you as always… You are a blessing to me and so many!