Preparing for Lent with Open Arms

Last Lent, my family and I were driving to Florida. On one of our stops, my husband popped into a Chick-fil-A to pick up dinner. When he emerged, he had a huge milkshake in hand.

Instantly, I knew he meant it for me: my love of milkshakes is somewhat notorious.

Yet, it was Lent. Sacrifices, fasting, abstaining – all those words filled my head and I quickly felt frustration bubble up inside; what was he thinking? I didn’t want a milkshake during Lent!

I was about to protest, but through God’s grace, the words of a wise priest found their way into my heart: “Smile through your frustrations.” As my husband handed me the milkshake with a sweet “I thought you might like this,” I swallowed each word of accusation and replied, “Thank you. That was so sweet of you.”

In that moment, peace and joy won. My husband’s act of thoughtfulness was received in love and gratitude, rather than rejected with criticism. Accepting his gift without complaint was the better sacrifice; it meant choosing charity and offering up my own annoyances.

I wish I could say peace and joy always win, but the truth is, I usually choose what I want rather than holy receptivity.

But Lent isn’t about me; it’s about consoling the heart of Christ and surrendering to Him. It’s about preparing our hearts in spiritual discipline so we can fully celebrate the gift of Christ’s Resurrection. It’s about letting go of our desires, so our hands can be open and ready to receive the gift of our Savior.

Lent is an emptying of everything that is not God. It echoes the words of St. John the Baptist, “Christ must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When we make our sacrifices about ourselves, we fail to truly advance in the Spiritual Life. We conflate holiness with something that is our job, when truly, our sanctity is God’s work within us.

“May the God of peace make you perfectly holy, and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will also accomplish it” (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).

St. Paul’s words remind us that our holiness begins and ends with God. He calls us to holiness, and He is the one who accomplishes it. The role that we play is one of surrender – offering up our wills and uniting them with His.

While I definitely struggled through Lent last year, my stubborn will is constantly getting the better of me; that seemingly small moment at Chick-fil-A made me realize that one act of surrendering my will was more fruitful than all the moments of making Lent about “me and my great sacrifices.”

As Lent comes around once again, I invite you to join me in being receptive to the moments that don’t go our way. Let’s smile through our frustrations. And greet each difficult moment with open arms; you never know what good things God is bringing about.

By Ann Burns, a wife and mother, and founder of The Feminine Project,


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