As you may have been able to tell from the handful of people you probably came across with ‘dirt’ on their foreheads yesterday, the Christian season of Lent is here. I was kindly “notified” of this myself by 2 different, somewhat well-meaning, strangers yesterday. Sadly, one of them later mentioned that he was a Catholic.
At any rate, the physical, mental and spiritual preparations for Easter are now in full swing. One of the central tenets of Lent is the “giving up” of something. The thought process being that Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice on Good Friday, so in preparation you should try to emulate this in a very small way by sacrificing something in preparation for the celebration of our redemption. It also is meant to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert prior to beginning his active ministry.
Seeing that this is still Winter, when things are cold and dead, and we are preparing for Spring when the world is renewed and “brought back to life” Lent/Easter is also seen as a time to renew ourselves, inside and out. In a way, Lent is kind of like an extended New Year’s Resolution. (In fact, Easter is the “New Year’s Day” of the Catholic calendar.) Interestingly, last Sunday our pastor mentioned challenged the adults in attendance at Mass to take an entirely new look at how we prepare ourselves during Lent.
He had really emphasized using this time as a time of transformation. While giving up something we particularly enjoy (chocolate, caffeine, television, etc.) is a fine sacrifice, Lent should really be a time to truly transform ourselves for the better and not just deprive ourselves for 40 days. Use Lent as a springboard to something better. Personally, I liked hearing this because in recent years I had trended away from giving things up for Lent and tried to focus on doing more of something positive. I was glad to discover I had not secretly become a heretic.
Of course, this still left me in the precarious (and typical) position of not knowing what to focus on. Typically, I have had a hard time coming up with something. Not because I have nothing to improve upon, mind you. The bigger problem was finding something that was reasonable, doable but also quantifiable so that I could figure out if I really was improving or not. Unfortunately, in the past few years, the best I could come up with was something like “being more patient with the kids”. This is a fine goal to be sure, but tough to quantify and therefore easy to sort of let fall by the wayside.
I was worried that it once again was going to be a week or more into Lent before I figured something out and then it was going to once again be a half-assed production. But after some thought and reflection during Mass, I finally came upon the perfect target for improvement. Something that would (hopefully) be an excellent springboard into a better me. (I know something everyone has been looking and hoping for!)
From this day forward, I am going to stop being afraid. Not of ghosts or spiders or sharks, but of myself and possibilities. Too often, I get in my own way. I get a good idea, but then it sits there in my brain and I start talking myself out of it. A good idea or an interesting project at work, never brought to fruition because I was too afraid of failure or putting myself out there. Afraid to open a certain email or return a certain phone call because it might contain bad news or criticism or whatever. Afraid to make plans because people might not come or they might come but won’t think it is fun. Afraid to speak up because the other person is going to think I am stupid. The list goes on and on and on.
Some times, when it is quiet, I think about what I am doing with my life and how I could be doing more. And why am I not doing more? One reason (as discussed before) is having small children in the house. No shame in that, for rightfully so they take up a lot of time and energy and it is probably the most important job I have. After that, though, I run out of excuses. The remaining lacklusterness then boils down to laziness and fear.
And so, I have set out on a journey to not be afraid. While it has only been a few days, I have already seen some changes for the better. I have been confronted by a handful of situations where my first reaction would have typically been to fearful, my stomach tied in knots. But instead, I shunned fear and charged forward. While the results have not always been successful, I have noticed that I feel better inside. Mostly I feel lighter and more free. I know that I will probably have some setbacks and moments of fear, but I can already see myself transforming for the better.
This whole experience has made me think about a quote that I have heard on occasion that fits this mindset and what I am fighting against. I want to share part of it with you to end this post and hopefully encourage you to get out of your own way and better than you are today.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Marianne Williamson