Winning in Lent

What are you giving up for Lent?

It’s something that is asked as soon as Catholics get ashes smudged across their forehead on Ash Wednesday.  I usually aim for giving up Tim Horton’s or Chipotle – since both are my guilty pleasures.  Then there’s giving up pop or cutting out sweets – the typical Lenten abstinence.  There was even one year in college I tried giving up sweat pants.  That’s right sweat pants. I had to show up to my classes, meetings, and study sessions wearing jeans or better.  I don’t think I lasted on that one, but I sure tried.

My typical Lent is a contest.  It’s seeing how long I can last going without something, only to crash and burn a few weeks in or, make it to Easter Sunday only to revert back to my old ways.

This year is different.  It may be because I was too busy to think about what vice to give up this year.  It may be that I’ve started to realize Lent is not a contest, but more of a retreat.  Throughout college and graduate school, I went on several retreats, each time growing in fondness for the chance to unplug myself, be present in the moment, appreciate the element of time and really focus on myself.

A retreat can allow you to really learn a lot about yourself.  Whether you can last a week without going through the drive-thru for coffee, doesn’t. Well, it’s at least not as enlightening.

This year, I decided I wanted to do something not-so-typical.  I didn’t want to make Lent a contest like I have in the past, but rather I wanted to make it an experience.

I want to make it a time to really be present.  I want to do more, instead of trying to withhold myself from bad habits (not to say that trying to refrain from bad habits is a bad thing because it’s not). I want to get back to basics and back to the important things.  I want to be my best self, by challenging myself to experience more and give more of myself.

So what does that mean for my Lenten journey? I won’t be giving up Tim Horton’s this year or refraining from Chipotle, although it wouldn’t hurt to cut back.

Instead, I’m going to be present by journaling every night, bringing the examen back into my life. I want to reflect more on my day, instead of vegging out once the work day is done.

I want to get back to basics and shed the excess by sifting through old clothes and books and donating them to those who need them.  I’m hoping this can free up the physical room, free me from clutter and give my mind more focus.

I want to do more by bringing in a small act of kindness every day and try to do it without anyone noticing – mainly because I need some practice in humility.

It may sound like a lot but I hope taking this different path will help me to shed the distraction, regain my focus while building my giving to others and myself.  Who knows, it may just create some changes for the rest of the year and not just for 40 days and 40 nights.

Who knows maybe doing Lent a little differently will make it a more successful, nourishing experience and one where we aren’t white-knuckling our way to Easter Sunday.

So I challenge you to really win at Lent this year and do something a little different.  You may find that not only will you win in Lent, but you will win for yourself.



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