Giving up giving up for Lent

What I’d like to give up for Lent is how my brain endlessly churns over problems. Since I’m not going to get that, you guys get a blog post about it.

Last week, I mentioned I hadn’t come up yet with a Lenten discipline, but I wanted to. I even tossed the question out angelward: What should I do? And yes, I know you’re not going to tell me because that’s cheating.

In the past, I would have gotten a direct answer. This time I got, along with an amused sense, the thought: where does my relationship with God need the most work?

I thought, Ah, so direct answers are out, but leading questions are okay?

A long time ago, I was thinking about saints like Philip Neri (and the soon-to-be sainted Blessed Andre Bessette) who could read hearts. I thought, “But really, there are only two hearts I need to read. Jesus’s — ”

He loves you.

” — and my own.”

You want to do the right thing.”

I thought that was good at first, but over time I realized how inferior the second was to the first. When you love someone, you want to do right by them anyhow. When you want to do the right thing, you’re fear-bound.

In other words, if you love someone, you want to be pleasing to them. But if you only want to do the right thing, you want not to displease them. And that’s not the best we can do. It’s inhibiting.

Of course, once I settled on this as where I need the most work, I wanted to come up with The Right Way Of Not Worrying About Doing The Right Thing. And therein lies madness. My Patient Husband listened to my thoughts on the matter and said, “Don’t even go there. It’s the ultimate Lent creep. Come up with something you can do and just stick to it.” But I’ve proven I can stick with anything for 40 days. Isn’t that just reinforcing the bad thought patterns?

The problem I recognized is the idea that if I just find the right Lenten discipline, the perfect one, then God will be freed up to unleash all those graces that have been buckled up so far, and of course that’s not how it works. But there I was, flailing for exactly the perfect course of fixing the area that needed the most work, when really, anything will do as long as we start with an open heart and set things in motion so God can direct their course.

I still don’t like my resolution, but here it is: when you love someone, you want to listen to the person. So I’m going to do lectio divina again, but I’m not going to fret about whether I’m doing it right or enough. I’m just going to try to listen.

Which means I get to keep my ensugared coffee, I guess. But this is harder. With coffee, either there’s sugar or there isn’t. With listening, it’s not metric. There’s no way to be sure.


  1. Illya

    Outside of Morning and Evening Prayer, Lexio Divina is the most rewarding of spiritual exercises for me. When it works, I mean by that when God allows a new insight, I feel incredibly blessed. i hope is enriches your Lenten experience.