When I was a crazy college student, I was a “go big or go home” kind of person. Everything, including Lent, was a big deal. One semester, my Lenten discipline was to fast on Wednesday and Friday. Not the two-little-meals-one-regular-meal fast. The old-school no-food-for-24-hours kind of fast. It was an interesting semester.
I held myself to a very high standard, higher than I held anyone else, at least. I wanted what I did to be grand and perfect and illuminating. I wanted to be Joan of Arc and Therese of Lisieux at the same time. At the same time, of course, I wanted to be Einstein and G. K. Chesterton and Shakespeare. College was a confusing time.
Fast-forward to the present. I’m now the Mama to three kids under the age of four. Gone are the days of grand spiritual gestures and staying up all night to go to three Easter services in a row. Now it’s as much as I can do to make sure everyone is fed and reasonably clean.
What’s an arrogant perfectionist to do?
Since I’ve been married and blessed with motherhood, I consistently let myself down during Lent. I still try to make the grand spiritual conquests, but I fall woefully short.
So, this Lent, I’m approaching it from a different angle.
This year, I’m doing Lent half-way.
I can’t do a rosary novena every day. I can teach my three-year-old to do a single rosary decade with me.
I can’t give up coffee entirely, as the withdrawal migraines would leave me non-functional for days. I can give up milk and sugar in my coffee. This turns my morning beverage from a sweet form of comfort food to a dark, bitter witch’s brew.
I can’t give up internet access because I need it for work. I can give it up when my kids are awake.
I can’t make my house perfect. I can make sure I make my family comfortable.
In the past, my Lenten philosophy was “give until it hurts.” At the time I didn’t realize what I was practicing was “give until it hurts other people.” There were times when my stringent measures made me a bear to be around and those around me suffered.
By letting go of my pride and allowing myself to go “half-way,” I know I can keep my penances to myself. By accepting this humble substitute, I have to believe that, if I go half-way, God will come the other half.