Realistic Lent.

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I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine yesterday about what we were giving up for lent. He felt the Lord was really calling him to rise at 3am every night and pray the Divine Office as a monk would do. I remarked that this was probably going to interfere with his job because he would be tired during the day, to  which he replied that it would be a sacrifice he would be happy to make (under the guidance of his spiritual director).

I then asked him if he would also be giving up coffee (he really likes coffee). He told me no – he wouldn’t be giving up coffee because that was too weak a fast. Lent demands harsher fasts. I replied that if it coffee was not a big deal to give up, then he would have no problem doing it, right?

No. He was not going to give up his coffee. 🙂

So I suggested he try only giving up his first cup of coffee in the morning…

No. If he gave up his first cup of coffee in the morning then it would be everyone else that would be doing the pennance because he would be so crabby! 😀 (An opportunity to do more penance and hold your tongue perhaps…? 🙂 )

So I suggested he give up another cup of coffee during the day instead…

“No! I’m not giving up my damn coffee!!”

Ok 🙂 I guess it is too easy a fast, huh? 😉

It was becoming apparent that even suggesting giving up even one cup of coffee was making him mad 🙂 I find most people are the same. I guess we all tend to rely on caffeine more than we rely on God – even if we do not want to admit it to ourselves. Of course it does not have to be coffee, but we all have a ‘thing’ or ‘things’ that we are highly attached to already present in our ordinary daily lives. We are so attached to these things that we would literally do ANYTHING other than face our attachment and offer it to God – even invent harsher and more elaborate penances that will make us feel as if we have made sufficient effort during Lent.

But after Lent has ended, we will still be attached to those tiny ‘things’ already present in our ordinary daily lives that we just can’t live without. We will still be attached, so what progress have we made?

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Going into Lent this year, let’s identify that tiny ‘thing’ that we just can’t live without. That ‘thing’ that we rely on to satisfy us and keep us in our comfort zone on a daily basis more than we rely on God (who never keeps us in our comfort zone). It could be caffeine, social media, TV, food, porn or whatever – even going to bed on time or not being late for things. Only you know what that ‘thing’ is. That small, supposedly insignificant thing already present in your ordinary daily life.

I guess when we really think about it, that tiny, insignificant cup of coffee that you rely on several times a day, would actually be a MASSIVE fast for you. You can gauge it by how annoyed it makes you feel to think about giving it up!  It takes humility to admit we are so weak.

I personally cannot give up coffee entirely. It is too much for me to realistically and sustainably take on for 6 weeks. So I will give up my first cup each day, and that, quite frankly, is about as much as I can do this year. But I will do it obediently and with my whole heart. Lent is not an endurance test. It is not a diet. It is about love and trust. It is about our willingness to detach ourselves from the things we rely on more than God. It is not the size or style of the fast that God is interested in, but the spiritual effort required from us, and our reliance on Him to sustain us through it.

Little things done with great love…