Lent is not so much about achievement but about surrender. If we let God into our lives, and make a space for Him, then we are trusting Him to do His work.
But if we fill our plates with ideas that we hope to accomplish throughout the forty days of Lent, often we find ourselves immersed in disappointment and discouragement.
We want to see the results of our labors, and we enjoy working hard for a tangible good. The problem is, that’s not what Lent is really about.
No, it’s not about achieving a clean house or a slim body, though these are both good and healthy things to work on, but rather it is more about creating a space in our hearts and homes for the work of the Holy Spirit.
1. Being Open to Needs
It may mean learning to cultivate quiet in the early hours of our mornings before the children awake. Or it may be lying next to our sick child for their afternoon nap and offering ejaculations of love to our Lord, when we might rather be accomplishing some household task.
Maybe it is sitting next to our spouse and waiting with a patient heart for them to share their thoughts with us.
Or perhaps it is asking Our Lord to show us each day how He would like us to use our free moments, and who He wants us to touch with our love.
There are needy people all around us, though each may not look materially in need, how many of us are spiritually and emotionally in need of the presence of a companion to lean on, to listen to us? How often do the temper tantrums or whining of our children become masked cries for the constant love and attention which they crave, and which they proceed to demand of us?
2. Letting God In
If we are honest, we know that God will provide us with many opportunities for mortification during Lent if we allow Him into our daily lives. And His ideas are better and more perfect than ours, because he knows exactly what we need in order to grow in holiness.
Making lists and holding ourselves accountable is of course admirable and necessary, but perhaps we should also begin to focus more on seeking a greater openness to His will for us. The difficulty with openness to God is that it appears to take away our control and asks us to surrender our fears. What will God ask of us?
We are afraid that He might give us something that we can’t handle, and so we yearn to protect ourselves by only offering what we feel that we are able to give. Writing these words even frightens me, for it crosses my mind that maybe God could burden me by asking me to live up to such grand thoughts.
Yet, if we believe in a fatherly God who looks at us only in love, then what are we to fear?
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells the synagogue official “do not be afraid; just have faith”. With such a simple statement, Christ calls us to great heroism—that in the midst of confusion, doubts, and fears, we are to profess faith. This is the faith that a child has in his father, and such is the relationship that Our Lord desires with us.
3. Don’t Fear Change
Fear of God’s plans can bind and control us, and we are not able to surrender our lives to God when we are tortured by anxiety.
Yet God desires freedom and hope for our lives, not worry and despair. His greatest desire for us is that we will turn to Him out of love, with the confidence of a child who would give anything to please his father, and who feels great pain at offending him.
When we do this, we permit Him to love us as a Father, and we rest assured in knowing that only our good is desired in His heart.
By surrendering our desires for control, we will find true peace in knowing that everything which happens to us comes not through the work of our feeble hands, but from the loving hands of God.