This year I was so ready for Lent, and that was something different for me. Many other years Lent has crept up on me, and I half-heartedly chose something to “give up.” Then I limped along, hungry for Easter Sunday, so I could be released from a self-imposed exile. I was only concerned with getting back to something I really didn’t want to be without.
Not this year. This year I saw Lent coming and embraced it with open arms. Part of the reason for that was I looked up and saw it was the first week of February (already). Picking at my field greens and sipping my soup, I mentioned to a friend, a fellow authorpreneur, that January blew by like a freight train. She lit up in agreement, and mentioned how that reinforced her decision to make this year, the “year of putting herself first.”
“Time is just moving too fast,” she stated, “and I have to start saying no to people, or I’ll never get done what I really want to do.” I picked some more at my leafy lunch before asking a follow-up question. I knew she wasn’t a taker; she was a giver. She’s a passionate literacy advocate with a teacher’s heart. Still, she had a point about that no-thing.
We both pondered my next question. “Do you think it’s having your energy pulled in different directions that’s the problem? I mean, helping other people is a good thing.” And that’s when I found the right word, focus!
We all come out of the gate on January first, charging into the new year with fresh goals ahead of us, and plans to chase them down. But with our re-energized selves, offices, homes, schools, and parishes all taking off at the same time, it’s not long before our schedules start to pull away from us in a different direction.
As a Catholic I love getting to start each new year twice! We start with everyone else on New Year’s Day, and then about a month and half later, we can really get down to business with the beginning of Lent. Those 40 days prior to Easter allow us to conduct a little reconnaissance, evaluate our start to the year, inventory any baggage we have brought along from past years, and really focus ourselves on what’s most valuable and worthy of our efforts.
So back to the lunch conversation, I guess we should be able to say NO to people, but not until we are prepared to deny ourselves first, during Lent! We should practice denying ourselves of our routines, impulses and addictions in order to build up the virtue of Temperance. Why? As we practice temperance, we conduct a little internal “spring cleaning”. With greater temperance we have the increased “capacity” needed to focus our renewed selves, come Easter.
And maybe it’s the lack of temperance that keeps us from being more affective in January. Consider the the period of time (about the same duration as Lent) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s filled with occasions of indulgence and celebration. Many people are exhausted come January and looking for things to “get back to normal”. That’s not really the mindset required for a life changing campaign (a.k.a. Resolution).
Contrast that to Lent, a period of self sacrifice, prayer and focus. Lent provides fuel for our renewal and helps make Easter a powerful season! I took planning for this new year very seriously. I entered 2015 with lofty goals, knowing I must improve myself and grow as a person to accomplish them.
I needed Lent to begin!
Another common practice during Lent is to take on something new, like adding spiritual readings or prayer to a routine, or begin a new practice of selflessness to bring about required change.
If they help you focus (there’s that word again), and prepare for Easter’s rebirth, it is well worth the trouble.
Temperance and prayer creates clarity. Clarity and focus equals advancement for one’s self. But more than that, this recipe can also create advancement for one’s world.
When we grow and become better suited for our grand endeavors, we inspire people. A good Lent may be just what you need to bring about that transformation.
So if Lent snuck up on you this year, that’s fine. It’s not how you start, it how you finish! Take this opportunity to focus, and reach for a bigger, better you. Easter’s not here yet. There is still time to become the renewed, developed person capable of accomplishing those grand endeavors and inspiring others!
I am not alone in encouraging you. Listen closely and hear a special Saint chiming in:
“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” – St. Pope John Paul II