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Are you excited about Lent this year? Making long lists of sacrifices, prayers and goals? Or do you hesitate to take on a new discipline to add to your packed schedule?
When we take on a new goal to improve our life we meet internal resistance. Perhaps the new project is a resolution to eat less and exercise more, complain less and listen more, or worry less and sleep more. Lent drives the new purpose into first place in our mind and on our calendar.
What is God’s will and timing?
How do we know if what we decide to change is what God wants us to do? If this is the right time and the right way to make this change?
When we plunge ahead without consulting God, the ego, called by some, “edging God out,” sneaks in punches demanding we take charge and wipe the calendar clean. Get control of everything in the new order. The result? Priorities in the old order suffer.
The all-or-nothing approach strong-arms some people who would gladly help in reaching a less ambitious finale. Collateral damage results when, in pursuit of a new cause, the family member escapes the responsibilities given him or her by God. For example:
- The entrepreneur who announces to his family that this Lent he is unavailable until after the next sales goal, which is Easter Monday.
- The mother of young children who commits to attending 6:30 a.m. daily mass, leaving her young children to get breakfast, fix their lunches and get off to school by themselves.
- The teenage girl who begins a Lenten diet requiring food and eating times different from the family, absenting herself from the family circle.
When did sacrificing faith and family commitments ever result in true success? Sometimes ill health, necessary travel, short-term deadlines, a new baby or ailing parents change the order of our lives. But these factors don’t have to damage our relationships with each other or the Lord. He knows what his priorities for us are. The question is: Do we know? Have the thought through our Lenten promises with consideration for others in our lives?
The fiercest resistance comes when we take on something new that we think will advance our spiritual growth. In trying to get closer to God, our eagerness sometimes edges him out. We may commit to serving others in a new way or sacrifice sleep or leisure for extended prayer. In our fervor, we exhaust ourselves and before we know it our prayer time diminishes, even when increasing it is what we seek.
But praying before the decision to change, is where we find out where the new goal fits into God’s plan for our life. How do we live Mark 12:30, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”?
We have only to ask, seek and we will find his loving will for us. Let him decide. Then joyfully we will spend Lent close beside him, right where he wants us.
Have you asked God what he has to say about your new commitment for Lent?
(© 2014, revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)