So, now that we're a whole 3 days into Lent, I figured I would pass out my -free, I'm not a spiritual expert, I have no qualifications- advice. Because not being an expert never stopped me from handing out advice before.
It's not about the sacrifice. It took me many, many years to learn this, but the point of Lent isn't to give something up just for the sake of giving something up. Fasting without prayer is just a diet. There is no point in giving something up, if you don't try to focus on Jesus during that time. The point of penance and sacrifice is to grow closer to God....to eliminate distractions and those things that separate us from God. The small amount of pain we feel when we make a sacrifice, can help bring us closer to God if we let it. If we just white-knuckle and suffer through, without actually turning towards prayer, we are just suffering for no reason.
Make it about others. Lent should be about serving others, not ourselves. It should be about growing closer to our family members and loving them better. This Lent, no matter your state in life, you should resolve to love those around you better. Give them more of your time, more of your attention, more of yourself. Just about everyone could give more of themselves. Our natural inclination is selfishness. This Lent, try to root out at least a tiny bit of that selfishness and become a more giving person.
Practice self-donative love. I love that phrase....self-donative love. I first read it from the Popcaks.
Self-donative love] is a supremely responsive love, empowering those who practice it to use their bodies, minds, and spirits to respond with justice and compassion to the deepest God-given needs of others. Self-donation is the kind of love that mirrors the self-gift Jesus Christ gave us, through His Incarnation and through is Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Further, it is the love that lies at the heart of both Catholic social justice and Catholic family life.- Parenting With Grace, (Dr. Popcak)
So...what is self-donative love? Self-donative love is when you get out of bed to nurse a crying baby for the umpteenth time. Self-donative love is when you stay up late to spend time with your husband. Self-donative love is when you lie down with your toddler at night to help them fall asleep. Self-donative love is when you read that extra story or play that extra game. Self-donative love is when you carry your child who just wants to be carried or comfort the child who just wants to be comforted. Self-donative love is the giving of yourself to another person.
Do hard things. It's good to do hard things. Doing hard things is good for you. So find something hard to do and do it, By doing hard things, we grow in virtue and strength and ability. So, challenge yourself to do something hard...whether that's running a marathon or crocheting a blanket or teaching fractions or visiting a neighbor, or making amends with someone you've had a falling out with. Do something hard, and you'll be a better person.
Stop yelling. This is the hardest thing ever...but it is so, so, so important. Think long and hard about times when you are most likely to yell and then find alternatives. There will be mistakes...there will be backslides. But, yelling is really damaging to family relationships and family relationships are the most important thing. I'm a yeller...I get how hard it is to stop. It's a long hard process (but remember, it's good to do hard things), but so worth the work involved. The relationship you have with your spouse and children are the most important relationships...and yelling is damaging. But, don't yell at yourself if you slip up. Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with yourself, be gentle with yourself.
Go to Confession and take your kids. Go at least once....and maybe twice or even thrice. If you have kids old enough to go, take them too.
Make a new friend. Just about everyone needs a new friend. This Lent, resolve to be friendly, to make a new friend or revive an old friendship. So many people are lonely and isolated and just looking for someone to reach out. So do it...the rewards are great and the risks are few. Invite someone over, take someone out for coffee or just spend a few minutes chatting after Mass. You just never know how much one small gesture of kindness could mean to someone else.
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Linking up with Equipping Catholic Families, Campfires and Cleats, Truly Rich Mom, A Slice of Smith Life, and Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday.