Tips for finishing Lent Strong
Fun fact: In high schooI I competed in cross country for one season. I was pitiful..long distance running has never been a strength of mine. I would start off well with a good pace and before I knew it, I was sadly trotting along. Lack of endurance aside, I always made my best effort to finish every race strong. I would dig deep into whatever reserves I had and run as hard as I could to the of the course.
Some years during Lent, I feel like I am in a cross country race. I start off with the best intentions jogging along in prayer and fasting and then slow down to a slow trot or even a walk. This is the part of Lent, with just a couple of weeks left, where we can dig deep and finish strong.
The pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If you’re like me, you may have written out goals and ways you plan on focusing on these three pillars. I recently looked back on those Lenten plans and took stock of what I had accomplished and how God has pushed me to focus on those areas in ways I did not plan.
Here are some tips to finishing strong this Lent.
So often we complicate prayer. I’m guilty of creating this imaginary challenge for myself. I’m going to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary every day, read all these Lenten reflections, I even wrote down filming a mini series for my YouTube channel reflecting on all of the Gospel readings as a Lenten goal. I wanted to do ALL the things.
Prayer in its most simplest form is an honest conversation with God. When I realized I was not going to do all of those things I stripped it down to praying tiny prayers throughout the day and supplementing where I could. God desires a relationship with us and a focus on prayer in a simple way will create a pattern that will transform our faith outside of the Lenten Season. If the only time I thought about praying was at a retreat or listening to a talk or reading a profound book I would be failing in that invitation for a personal relationship with God.
In the last couple of weeks my conversations have been uncomfortable, but the consistency has allowed me to HEAR God in a way that I couldn’t when I tried other methods.
This year I decided to give up coffee (read:not caffeine). To say it has been easy would be a lie, but it hasn’t been the most difficult fast either. Removing that unconscious instinct to drink multiple cups of coffee during the day has created a sense of mental clarity. I have also been forced to fast from the desire to always be in control. In the past few weeks circumstances have arisen that have shown that my plans for myself pale in comparison to what God plans for me. In some cases I have seen how this has lead to pride and hurt some relationships. So much like my instinct is to grab that cup of coffee has to be checked daily, so too is the desire to always be in the right or always have things my way.
Another way to fast is to fast from fruitless relationships or activities. In past years I’ve used the opportunity to reevaluate acquaintances and see if it is not only serving my spiritual growth but if those relationships and activities support my mission to serve God. It can be painful but that spiritual pruning is necessary to cultivating a faith that can be fully alive and practiced in your life. In some cases not engaging in activities is a quiet testimony to others.
This one always seemed difficult. I think people think that giving to charity or upping their tithes is sufficient but perhaps as a challenge we can evaluate what we spend our time talent and treasure. When I think of giving Alms. I think about how I can use my treasure in a way that furthers our call to be hope for the hopeless.
A monetary donation is a start, but perhaps it is as simple as giving your time or treasure when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. Perhaps it is learning about an organization that promotes elements of Catholic Social teaching and sharing their message with others. Perhaps it is as simple as making a commitment to reach out to an estranged family member or friend and extending the olive branch of reconciliation.
I think simplicity is how we can all finish our Lents strong and move into the Easter better equipped to receive the message of salvation.