Catchy title, isn’t it? But this is honestly one of my favorite life stories to tell.
Growing up, we never observed Lent. I thought it was one of those pagan things that Catholics do (wink, wink). But in my post-college single years, I attended a church that introduced me to the sacredness of fasting for Lent. And I began to take it seriously.
Not being a sugar-fiend, fasting dessert or junk food wasn’t really that valuable to me. I couldn’t give up caffeine because I knew more than forty people would be injured during my forty day fast. So I began to consider what would be most purifying to me, what would make the most difference in my life. I wanted the time to be well-spent in sacrifice and soul-searching.
The first year of participation, I really just kinda observed the people, the services, the stories of my fellow church-goers. By the next year, I knew what I needed to get rid of…nope, not men yet. Worry. Throughout the preceding 50 weeks, I had realized that my life was overtaken with worry. Worry about jobs, worry about relationships, worry about illness, worry about money, worry about not worrying enough..When the Lenten season began, I brought an end to worry. On that Ash Wednesday, I decided that for the next forty days, I would pray each time a worry entered my mind. No worrying allowed. Worries were turned into prayers.
And my life was revolutionized. The ‘structure’ of Lent (a specific time frame, support from friends, a common goal) was perfect for focusing on breaking a habit. Each time I began to worry, the reminder of my commitment to give it up came to my mind, and I said a prayer instead. Over and over and over again. It’s not that I didn’t worry, but rather, I didn’t let worry take control. I took control of it.
By the end of Lent, on Easter Sunday, I truly had no idea what new life was springing up inside of me. I had no idea that my life was never going to be the same. Throughout that spring, my thoughts were more peaceful and focused. I could concentrate on making plans and growing in life and not fretting and shrinking. I was a Lenten believer!
Roll the calendar forward a year…Lent again! I was stoked! Another chance for life transformation. Bring it on! I didn’t ponder very long what my fast would be. I knew what had screwed me up the most within the past year. I knew what influence needed to be purged from my life. I was eager for Ash Wednesday to make its mark on me so I could begin my purification.
Men. The one I ended a long relationship with…the other one after that…the hopes of any more in the near future. Lent was a safe haven from dating, from ill-conceived wedding planning, from any notion that males would solve any of my problems. During those forty days, I could think about my job, my graduate school plans, my finances, my travel plans, my own personal future…not waiting on it to happen because there was no man in my life.
Oh the freedom! Oh the thrill! No more scouting around the produce department for the right carrots and the right spouse. No more shopping based on what the next Mr. Maybe would like. No more experimental name changes when I tried out a new pen. Just a time for me…and God. A time to begin what he had been ready to do for a long time. I developed confidence in me, in my ability to make choices and stand behind them. I took risks and knew that I would be okay with the results. I grew and grew and grew.
Lent is now like Christmas to me. I look forward to it with eager anticipation. What will the new growth in me look like when the forty day germination is over?
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “[a]It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.