Some days, I feel like I just want a restart button.
At times, I even feel this way about my life.
And then, when I look at all the problems in the world, aware of how complicated and messy the issues of injustice really are, I frequently feel the same way.
I just want to press a button and let everything reboot, wake up all refreshed and renewed and ready to do things much better, to be more like we’re supposed to be.
That’s why I love this sacred season of Lent. I want to grow, I desire holiness, I pray for justice. I really do believe that things can be better and through God’s grace, we have something to do with it.
Back on Ash Wednesday there was a lot of chatter about what people were “giving up” for Lent. I didn’t chime in then, but now I’ll tell you some of what I’m up to. A full Lenten experience is not just about “giving things up” but committing to any activities of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to, in a sense, restart our relationships with God and others.
In fact, I am finding that the actions I have been taking work much more gradually than it does when I push a restart button. People and social problems aren’t machines, after all. Forty days is probably a good amount of time for a proper restart.
- In my classroom, my students and I have been praying with the CRS Lenten calendar and putting money in our rice bowl.
- In my living community, the sisters and I are eating vegetarian then donating the money we would have spent on meat to the area warming center. We are holding Friday nights as a silent hermitage time for contemplation. Plus, a couple of us started volunteering at a free community dinner, which I think we’ll continue doing after Lent.
- Personally, I am praying with the daily readings all through Lent. And, I’m using a web-browser add-on called Waste No Time to stop me from using Facebook or Twitter for more than 10 minutes a day.
- Lastly, today I’m leading a small group of youth in a CRS Food Fast retreat. Please say a prayer for the high school students who are fasting and will engage in service-learning and prayer activities after school. All of our actions should help us be in solidarity with those who are really hungry in other parts of the world.
The restart process is not pain-free, of course, but it’s so worth it. Basically, the activities of Lent are chipping away at the hardness in my heart and helping me learn some big lessons:
- The acts of service and fasting have taught me that I am way too comfortable, not just materially, but also with my plans. I’ve realized that I have fallen into a bit of a rut of liking my routine to be a certain way. Even though I have good intentions, I practically walk around every day with my focus on my to-do list with a giant “do not disturb” sign hanging from my face. How can I help build up the kingdom of God if I am not open, flexible and available? Am I awake to the work of God?
- Speaking to being awake to the work of God, the activities of prayer have helped me gain a deeper desire for more intimacy with God. I entered Lent looking forward to my Triduum because then I could have a little vacation. Now, I am hoping for a silent retreat over those days, almost isolated from civilization.
- Lastly, I believe again that every little action has an impact. I realized that sometimes when I pray or do acts of charity I am tempted to become cynical about whether I am really making a difference. Now, because of some feedback received from others, I’m remembering that the littlest things do indeed matter; we just don’t always know how. This interdependence among us reaches across the globe to our brothers and sisters who are desperate for the pennies that we throw away, too. Our choices to be in solidarity with them this Lent really improve their livelihood, thanks be to God. This video helps me understand that:
Ultimately, the Lenten restart button that I was hoping for has had an impact on me. I have gotten disturbed. I am changed. I am getting to be a bit better, we all are.
And, for this I am very thankful.
Sister Julia, I love this idea of Lent as a restart period in our lives, where we are intentional about seeing how we are being reconciled with Christ and thus reconciled with others. I, too, feel I need a restart button, as our society constantly stresses the need for that instant gratification… Yet, we must remember that renewal and reconciliation to God and others don’t come with a push of a button. This thing called faith is a journey, and we must be intentional about walking that journey with eyes open to see and ears open to hear. Thank you for this reminder!
I love what you said about Lent not just being about what we give up, but also about what we DO, what we’ve added to our lives to encourage growth and thinking-outside-ourselves. I don’t really give up anything during the Lenten season, but choose to ADD something, some Lenten discipline. This year my Lenten Project was to blog every day but Sundays, with them focus being my past, looking each day at an episode or story from my past, facing it, owning it, processing it, and then finding a way to view the horrible abusive parts through a lens of reconciliation and redemption. It’s been really hard, harder than I thought it would be when I first had the idea. But it’s been good. So good for me. Good for my relationship with God, my relationships with others.
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