Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let God Lead During Lent

As a young friar, lent often meant the beginning of heroic penitential undertakings.  I might give up some cherished food item or two—I even made the huge mistake of trying to give up coffee a couple of times—in addition to reading a certain Lenten-themed book and adding this or that prayer devotion to my repertoire.  Mind you, all this was on top of an already prayer-packed and spartan CFR lifestyle and the plain old daily struggle of just facing what life throws at you.  It was too much and my “heroism”—aka, perfectionism—suffered greatly.  Over the years this heavy-lifting approach to lent has gradually given way to a more realistic one, which has actually proven more helpful in meeting reality, and, therefore, Christ, head on.  In fact, in recent years, reality itself has proven to be penance enough for me.  The following anecdote from a friend illustrates the point.

This friend of mine is currently in an initial six-month training program for a big-name consulting company.  The environment is intense and sometimes stressful and recently, during a week-long role play, the intensity and stress reached new heights.  The week began well, but by Tuesday his team began to unravel and this led him to choose poor eating habits, poorer stress-relieving choices and ultimately, to lose a lot of sleep.  By Friday, he was so frustrated and overwhelmed, he almost burst into tears in front of his teammates and two bosses.  Eventually, after an instructor-intervention, his team was able to regroup and salvage the lost project.  But that’s not the good news.  The good news came when my friend remarked, “Through it all, God’s burning love is at work in my life.  He used a terrible week at work to take a sledgehammer to my perfectionism and to show me that things won’t always work out the way I want them.  He really loves me.”  Now, I’m no expert in these matters, but I’d say my friend is not far from the Kingdom of God.  And I’d also say that openness to the love of God in our everyday lives, especially in our failures, is what lent is all about.

Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR

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