In deciding what to give up for Lent this year, I was really tempted and excited at the possibility to do something really extreme. I wanted to eat only rice and beans, or take on some kind of extreme diet, or just do something really difficult for the Lord. What I realized on Ash Wednesday though, was that the point is not to do something that makes ME feel really radical and holy.
Last year, I slept on the floor for all of Lent. And yes, it was difficult. But the problem was that the whole time, I felt so glorious! I remember crawling into my little bed on the floor on the first night of Lent and feeling how completely uncomfortable it was. I was so excited and couldn’t sleep because I started to think about how I would sleep on the floor for the rest of my life and how cool it would be to have a family where everyone slept on the floor (I’m not sure how charitable this would be to my potential future children). I got very carried away in my mind thinking about how glorious and saintly my life could be. After all, St. Francis used a rock as a pillow! Maybe God was calling me to have a holy family and raise children who had never seen a mattress!? I realize now that there was a point where it became very focused on what I could do for the Lord, instead of on the Lord himself. It was easy for Lent to be about ME instead of about HIM.
This year, when it came down to deciding what to do for Lent, I decided to get up at 6am everyday. This was a hard decision for me because I am not a morning person at all. It has also been very hard in practice because it is a very small action that requires a lot of discipline. (Discipline is something I’ve always struggled with. I am usually late, usually unprepared, and find it difficult to do anything consistently.) The great thing about this Lent is that there is absolutely nothing glorious or extravagant about getting up at 6am every single day. It does not make me feel holy. It just makes me feel as if I am doing something senseless. But I’ve found that when I am able to say no to the comfort of my bed, I have a little (or sometimes a lot) more time in the morning to just be by myself with the Lord, or to just get an early start on my day.
It has made me think a lot about what it means to do very small, ordinary things, and to do them for the glory of God. It is really easy for me to think about doing glorious, extravagant things for God’s glory – but the reality is that those glorious things FEEL so good. Small, everyday disciplines don’t FEEL as good, so then isn’t that really what it means to love God? Can’t it really be more for His glory when it is not something I want to do? I think what He wants from me right now is a heart that can love Him in very small, daily, even unimpressive or boring actions, instead of a heart that is willing to love in big, extravagant ways. And I think that when I can offer Him daily this very small acts of love, it will mean more to Him because He knows how much more difficult this is for me. So pray for me as I try out this whole discipline thing. I have a feeling it will be very good for my spiritual life, but it is so hard!