By Barb Arland-Fye
Hoping to deepen my relationship with Christ this Lent, I chose practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that would be realistic yet serve as a reminder of my desire for our relationship. If the practices are too easy – it’s no sacrifice for me to give up meat, for example — the reminders won’t materialize. But this year, reminders materialize in every aspect of my daily life.
The thing I’m fasting from comes to mind each day, tempting me to rationalize an escape clause. My prayer commitments for the season have also been challenging. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a project, I’m reluctant to head out the door for my prayer commitment outside the office or my home. And I still find myself hesitating at unexpected and even expected requests for money for a worthy cause.
Then there’s the closet clearing project I promised to undertake this Lent. A reader called this afternoon and asked how I was doing with that commitment and I had to tell her honestly, “I’m slacking!” Reminders to clear the closets occur at least twice a day: in the morning when I’m getting dressed and in the evening when I change into my PJs. And how was I to know that I’d also get tripped up in online sales promotions for my two favorite clothing stores? Now I click the “delete” button on each message so that I don’t see what great sale I’m missing.
My encouraging reader acknowledged that clearing closets is a monumental task. She often buys clothing at resale shops and tells herself that she can buy more clothes for that reason. “I’m hung up on coats and jackets,” she admitted. She’s hoping her friends will help keep her accountable. If she tells them she wants to go shopping, they are to remind her that “I do not need another thing.” Her call served as a gentle reminder from God that I need to get moving on that closet!
Other temptations have arisen for me. An article in another diocesan newspaper stated that Sunday is not a day of fast, so you can enjoy whatever you had chosen to give up for Lent. I checked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, which essentially says to let your conscience be your guide. My conscience tells me to stick with the fast all 46 days of Lent. Jesus, after all, didn’t take a break from his 40-day fast in the desert.
My resolve has been strengthened by a Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which appears in Evening Prayer II for the Second Sunday of Lent.
“While all the runners in the stadium take part in the race, the award goes to one man. In that case, run so as to win! Athletes deny themselves all sorts of things. They do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable. I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line. I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. What I do is discipline my own body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected.”
I’m thinking of placing a note with that Scripture on the mirror in my bathroom and on my computer desk at work. It serves as a reminder that perseverance will be rewarded, but also that my race isn’t completed until I achieve the ultimate goal: union with our triune God.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com or (563) 888-4246.)