Rather than making an unrealistic commitment during Lent, I selected something I could add to my already established morning and evening routines. I bought a Lenten journal that included a Bible verse and reflection with a corresponding prayer and question for free response. There were a few days I missed an entry and would make it up, but overall I felt I accomplished my Lenten promise and journey. The biggest thing I learned from this Lenten walk with Jesus was the idea of progress and not perfection.
As Matthew Kelley says, “we’re imperfect beings striving for perfection, and we have to learn to celebrate our progress.” Becoming more aware of what went on in my day and noticing where I was or was not being my best self made me more aware of God’s presence in my life. I could more easily notice when something in my day was a gift or where He was visibly working on something in my life.
As Lent progressed, I found myself yearning to know God in my life more and more. I went to Adoration more, sought out additional reflections through Kelley’s Dynamic Catholic resources, and attended my local women’s group more frequently. I think that’s what Lent should be: being on fire for your faith in God. Our Lenten practices shouldn’t just last for 40 days, but should be 365 days a year—though perhaps not to such a high degree as during Lent. Since Easter, I have continued to journal and have started a gratitude list I add to each day.
Here are some thoughts regarding seeking progress and not perfection that I have found helpful to continue working on after Lent:
- Recognizing the difference between problem-solving and worrying. God has given us the ability to worry for a purpose. However, most things we worry about don’t end up happening or are out of our control. If we can control the outcome, we are problem-solving. The main issue with worry is that it takes us out of the present and detaches us from God, who exists in the present moment.
- Our work is prayer. While some of us may have occupations that are of themselves rewarding (such as being a doctor or missionary), many of us have jobs where we bring meaning to our work. St. Paul invites us to “pray without ceasing.” In offering up an hour of work for someone in need or in our honest and kind actions at work, we are infusing our work with meaning. Work is important in helping us to grow in character and become our best selves.
- Critically think about a desire to please others. It’s in my nature to make others happy. This Lent, I was challenged to consider the motivations of my inclinations to please others. Did I act a certain way to avoid conflict or come to an unfair compromise? Did I serve someone in an unhealthy way? The desire to please someone is okay as long as it is of God and is accomplished in a healthy way.
- See opportunities instead of challenges. In Philippians 4:6, St. Paul calls us to “have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Each day is an opportunity to share God’s love, joy, and service to others. Trying to see the best in situations will help us immensely in passing along the joy of the Gospel, no matter our trials. God will guard our hearts and minds.
- Self-control is needed in our society more than ever. The phrase “you do you” has really been quite detrimental to our communities. We have lost the art of mastering impulses. Feeding desires such as eating too much food because it tastes good, binge-watching television, spending hours on social media, spending money because a credit card limit hasn’t been reached, or other indulgences make us slaves to these things rather than free to be the best version of whom God has called us to be.
Question for Reflection: What are some ways your past Lenten journeys have changed your spiritual life after Easter?