My biggest problem during Lent is that I listen to too many other people’s Lenten sacrifices and get so excited about doing them myself that I take on too many things. One year in college I was feeling particularly scrupulous and decided to give up sweets and meat and promised to go to daily Mass everyday (including Saturdays) and even do night prayer every single night. That lasted all of four days. Pitiful.
After many years of this I’ve come to realize that I won’t instantly transform from a regular schmo to a saint just because it’s Lent and I pretend to be a monk and give up snickerdoodles. That’s why the Church gives us this time every year, because it takes time. We can slowly and yearly become a little more like the person God wants us to become, but it cannot, and does not, happen from one day to the next — it takes a lifetime.
I don’t have any problems with people giving up sweets or beer or whatever they decide, but I’ve found this practice doesn’t help me in the slightest. I usually just replace what I gave up with something else and go completely overboard with that something else. Whenever I gave up sweets, I’d eat two PB&J sandwiches at every meal; or when I gave up soda, I drank a quart of juice every day. And this did not help me get closer to God. In fact, I probably thought about God less because all I could think about was chocolate or Dr. Pepper.
What I also don’t like about giving something up is that when Lent is over I go right back to my regular habits and my life goes on exactly like it had pre-Lent. Some kind of conversion should happen during Lent. Life after should be different from life before. We should be changed somehow. I would like whatever good habits I develop during Lent to continue for the rest of my life hopefully.
So this year I’ve decided to be very focused and specific about what needs change in my life and I have set two Lenten goals:
Goal #1 – Watch less TV and engage my family more.
I really like watching TV. I could watch cooking shows and home renovation shows all day. However, my real Achilles heel is Bones. I L-O-V-E this show. I developed a routine where every night I put Olivia to sleep and then watch a recorded episode. After that, I’m supposed to start dinner or whatever else needs to get done but of course that never happens and I usually end up watching another episode and sometimes even another. To cut myself a little slack, this happens 60% because I love the show and 40% because I’m so exhausted from a day full of toddler hijinks. As a result, Brandon and I mostly eat dinner on the couch while watching the aforementioned TV show. I can’t imagine how much more I would get done if I didn’t watch so much TV at night or how much more meaningful conversation I could have with my husband. So during Lent I’m not going to watch any Bones episodes except for new episodes — no reruns! I feel like this will be a healthy way of changing this habit and something that I could continue doing after Lent.
Goal #2 – Cook more and eat better.
Brandon and I both have a major sweet tooth. It is really bad for us. We really try to limit it but when you’re sleep deprived and tired you just kinda want to eat things that make you feel immediately gratified, i.e. donuts, ice cream, cookies. I didn’t want to give up sweets but I remembered something that came from Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules – “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” I like this idea. If I have to go through all the trouble of measuring, mixing, and baking then I will definitely eat a lot less cookies than if I just pick up some Chips Ahoy at the grocery store. Not only do I think this will decrease the amount of sugar we eat, I think this is a good habit we can continue after Easter that will help us treat our bodies like the temples that they are.
I do realize that my Lenten resolutions don’t seem as related to the spiritual realm as, say, going to daily Mass, but I really think they will make me a better wife and mother which will inherently make me more like what God wants me to be. Now if God wants me to be someone who doesn’t drink beer for an extra 40 days after a 9-month pregnancy prohibition, well, that will have to wait until next Lent.