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A Lasting Lenten Promise

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Feb. 18, 2015

As someone who’s been alive for twenty-one Lents, you’d think I’d have the whole “Lenten resolution” down by now. I distinctly remember giving up desserts for three years in a row until I decided I should really push myself the next year—and decided to give up soda instead. I looked at Lent as a time to go without something I loved, with the rationale that every time I went to grab my dessert or my can of soda, I would think about suffering for Jesus just as He did for me. Of course, it’s hard to equate the absence of ice cream with suffering on the cross, but the idea was that my sacrifice would remind me of the season we were in.

Fast forward to college, and I started to realize that I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of Lent. I wasn’t feeling the season, the preparation for the Resurrection. I needed to come up with something new. Saying goodbye to macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles for forty days wasn’t going to cut it anymore. The problem was, what could I give up instead?

Three days before Lent, I still didn’t have a clue when a friend gave me a gift of a journal. I’d never been a journaler, and I wasn’t planning on starting, but I thanked her and took it home. That’s when I realized that Lent didn’t mean I had to give something up; making a positive addition to my life would work just the same. For me, that meant starting a God-sightings journal.

Because I didn’t know how I would get into the swing of journaling, I decided to set myself a tangible goal. Every night before I went to sleep, I would write at least one way I saw God that day. It didn’t have to be deep or contain a connection to the Bible. I didn’t have to witness a miracle. I just had to write a sentence.

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to get out of this experiment, but something amazing happened. Because I was looking each day for God, knowing I would have to record it in my journal, I saw God everywhere. He was working at every minute of my life; I just had never slowed down to notice it before.

Halfway through Lent, I realized what this journal exercise was doing. I was growing closer to God.

My friends and peers had always talked about finding a personal connection with Him, and I nodded along, but it wasn’t until this journal that I realized what that meant. I finally realized He isn’t an observer from above, watching me navigate through life. He is an actor, a force who specifically places good in each day to give me a taste of Heaven. He wants me to see his blessings, and without this journal, I would have continued to glance over them, to look at them as inevitable occurrences instead of personalized plans.

What better way to prepare for Easter than to feel a connection with God, something I had never felt in giving up ice cream.

I’ve loved my journal so much that I’ve decided to carry this Lenten promise into my everyday life. On February 20th (the first Friday of this year’s Lent), I will mark three years of looking for God. I now notice and appreciate the mountain of gifts I’ve been given, evidenced through all the pages I’ve filled. This excercise has been so beneficial to me, so I try to be that glimpse of God’s love for others. You never know who needs a reminder that He’s there. I hope that over the last three years, I’ve provided a God-sighting for at least one person.

As I flip through the pages of my journal, I can see over a thousand days, a thousand ways that God has touched me throughout college. Some of these God-sightings were just ten words, like the first warm day of spring. Others were knock-me-over, page-long reflections, such as experiencing my first adoration.

Regardless of the size of the entry, the real benefit is seeing in writing that God was with me every single day.

Thomas needed physical evidence of Jesus to believe; he needed to touch the wounds and see the face of the Lord. This journal is my evidence. How can I doubt a God who has filled every page of my book?

Each night I record my God-sighting, it’s concrete proof of God’s love for me and His desire to be part of my life. And I can’t help but feel abundantly blessed

 

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If you are still looking for something to make Lent 2015 the best yet, here are some resources we have found to help you out:

“101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent Redux”: This handy list is divided into different areas of need. Self diagnose where you need improvement and choose something from the applicable list.  

“Lenten Practices Calendar for Families 2015”: Although this is titled for families, these can easily be adapted to fit any life situation. It is fun to have something new to do each day of Lent. This is a great choice if you need some variety to keep moving forward in the spiritual life.

“Outside the Box: 66 Things To Give Up or Take Up for Lent”: Do you consider yourself a Lenten sacrifice beginner? If so, this list is for you! It has three “levels” of penance for you to choose from to find what will fit you best. Maybe, after reading through this list, you’ll realize it’s time to level up.

Lent Reflections from Fr. Barron: It’s hard to beat Fr. Barron e-mailed to your inbox daily to keep you on track.

“What Should I Do for Lent? Pope Francis’ 10 Tips”: Pope Francis says it best. If you need inspiration, you’re sure to find some here!

“102 Things You Should Really Give Up for Lent”: LifeTeen really lightened the mood with a good mix of actual things to do/give up and goofiness. 


What did you do for the most fruitful Lent you’ve had? We’d love to read about it in the comments!

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