Lent is hard.
Lent. I like to think of it as the metaphorical workout. Tell me you’ve never thought this to yourself before going to exercise: I don’t want to work out!...eh...Maybe sitting is a form of exercise?...I should really clean that closet before I workout...The dishes should also be done before I do anything else...I wonder if doing the dishes is a good enough workout?... But then there is a moment of strength and we rise above the voices of sloth and laziness and just do it! After the workout, we usually feel great! There is a sense of confidence and success in self and a why don’t I do this more often!?
The saying is age old but its wisdom rings true: “You only get OUT what you put IN”. Lent is hard; all the fasting, prayer, and the almsgiving goes against everything my body tells me I want. But, I know when I commit, prepare, and enter into Lent with the right spirit, it can be so fruitful. As with exercise, the fruits I get OUT of Lent are only magnified by the effort I put IN to Lent. The grace and spiritual benefits of a Lenten promise fulfilled exceed any temporary discomfort, inconvenience, or pain of the sacrifice.
No matter where you are on your Lenten journey I encourage you to double down and focus on the commitments you made at the beginning of Lent. If you have held true to your sacrifices this Lent, keep it up! The Lord is surely pleased with your hard work. But, if you’re like me, you’ve fallen a few times on this Lenten journey. Take courage and find strength in your weakness: that means you’re challenging yourself! Let’s not allow our failures to become an excuse to give up entirely. I look to Jesus as my example and I encourage you to do the same.
On Jesus’s journey with His cross on Calvary, He fell three times, but He didn’t stay down. After each excruciating fall, He stood up and kept moving. Whether it was inch by inch, or step by step, Jesus kept moving and did not allow His falters to become failures. He knew that, from the beginning of time, He was the missing link needed to bridge the gap between God and humanity; this understanding was the fuel that propelled Him forward. This culminated in His ultimate sacrifice of death on the cross. This is the example I look to; this is the measure with which I seek to measure myself.
When I compare my Lenten fasts and struggles to Jesus’s, it helps me understand five things:
In Jesus I can find my strength because He has suffered before me and walks with me in my suffering.
If Jesus can get up three times after being beaten, scourged, humiliated, crowned with thorns, and forced to carry an oppressive cross...then I can get up after I [accidently] forget my Lenten observance.
I should not create my Lenten fasts by or compare my Lenten fasts to other people but rather, I ought to look to Jesus and compare, then ask what He is calling me to do to come closer to Him.
The more I empty myself of worldly things, the more I am able to focus on Jesus and be filled spiritually.
I want to have a closer union with Jesus, which is why I’m doing all this in the first place.
When I take the time to meditate on the first four points, I am continually left with the fifth as my takeaway: this is all for Christ. Lent is a reminder not only to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel, but to walk the road to Calvary in Christ’s company; to use His example as the perfect reflection of ‘offering it up’. Let us, together as brothers and sisters in Christ, use this Lent as a spiritual workout. Let us abandon the excuses, the stumblings, and the laziness and replace them with a willingness, surefootedness, and conviction in our sacrifices. And when we fall, let us look to Jesus as a source of perpetual and gritty strength.