God’s plans for my Lenten fasting
In the weeks leading up to Lent, I prayerfully discerned what I might give up for the season of fasting. I weighed the options, considered what would be most difficult and what would help me grow in holiness, and made my decision. I would give up scrolling through social media and greatly reduce my screen time.
On Ash Wednesday morning, two things happened: my dishwasher broke, and my husband and I both tested positive for COVID. I quickly found out I would be living without a dishwasher for 10 days, because the good people at Lowe’s do not care that I am an Amazon Prime member used to receiving things in two days. I would also have to cancel all my plans for the coming days to avoid spreading my sickness. Apparently, God had His own ideas about what I should give up, at least for the first week or two of Lent.
A few days later, as I washed the 74th dish of the day with an aching head and running nose, I reflected on how much more difficult it is to accept sacrifices that are not of our own choosing. Sometimes God sends a minor inconvenience like a broken dishwasher, and sometimes it is something much more lasting and painful. Either way, I find myself telling Him, “I know You want me to make sacrifices for You … but I was planning to sacrifice the screen time! I didn’t want this cross.”
Carrying our unique crosses
What crosses do you carry today? Maybe you are a parent of young children like me. In this case, you have to sacrifice your quiet time and sanity many times a day. In this season of your life, you may not be able to enjoy a relaxing vacation (or even a quick shower) without being interrupted by a toddler tantrum. Or maybe your family is struggling financially, so you have to fast from purchasing the things you want right now.
Maybe God has given you a less-temporary cross, like a diagnosis that will alter your lifestyle for the rest of your life, or the grief you will always carry for the loss of someone dear to you.
No one makes it through life without suffering. We all bear crosses upon our shoulders in this world, and we rarely get to choose which ones we will receive. The question is, how will we react to the crosses God creates for us? Will we complain about them? Will we reject them outright? Or will we embrace them as instruments sent specifically to us from God to bring us closer to holiness and to Him?
The ‘Act of Abandonment’
Take a moment to reflect on this convicting and beautiful prayer by St. Francis de Sales.
O my God,
I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve.
I invite you to examine how these first few weeks of Lent have gone for you. Did you choose some fast or sacrifice? Has it lasted? Is it really helping you grow in holiness?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” consider an entirely different path. Instead of giving up something new for Lent, maybe you could look at the crosses and sacrifices God has already given you, and work on embracing those more graciously. Some of them are likely heavier and more difficult to carry than what you would’ve chosen for yourself.
Can you venerate those crosses? How can you keep them “with gratitude and joy”? How might you strive not to let them drag? It’s worth praying on.