I will be honest, I was not raised observing the practice or season of Lent. It was merely a tradition for my Catholic and Lutheran friends. Until last year. As I laid at home recovering from my latest surgery, I tuned into my church’s live stream service.
The topic was Lent. The Pastor recalled a time when his wife asked him what he was giving up for Lent. He responded with “I am not Catholic. That’s not really something I do.” I could relate. Then he went on to explain that his wife’s question prompted him to reevaluate his conclusion.
What is Lent? It is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days signifies Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the wilderness. The practice of Lent is meant to be a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. During this time of preparation, the participant typically sacrifices, denies or fasts from something in their lives. This fasting is meant to be a constant reminder of Lent and to turn the participant’s attention to the reason they are abstaining.
As he explained Lent, I felt convicted that I had never participated. I also knew immediately what I needed to sacrifice – Movies & Netflix. Why? Recovering from my Mastectomy and subsequent surgeries was not easy, especially my mastectomy. Post-surgery medications and my body’s healing were physically exhausting. The pain often resulted in restless nights.
I spent my days reclined in a chair dosing in and out of sleep. I had a stack of books and magazines I thought I would tackle only to discover I couldn’t typically stay awake. What was I going to do? All. Day. Alone. I had an abundance of time to fill.
I turned to mindless TV watching. Binge watching Netflix and movies friends had loaned me. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not criticizing taking time to rest. Sometimes that is just what a season calls for, but for me, I felt God telling me I needed to move on. He had more in mind.
That season needed to end to make way for the next season. My circumstances had not changed. I was still incredibly limited, but I needed to change my approach. Time is our most precious resource. We have a finite amount of time on planet earth. Normally my time was allocated to caring for my three young children, writing, speaking and volunteering. However, this season of healing prevented me from participating in my normal activities and thus I had “free” time on my hands.
I was wasting my “Forced Mommy Vacation” & the gift of time on things that only served to entertain and pass time. While that is not in and of itself bad. I could have been using that time to feed my soul. So I participated in Lent for the first time. I told no one, because I felt it was deeply personal.
Then I set out to make the most of my gift – time. I started with YouTube. Who do I know that encourages & challenges me in my faith? Who is a sound Biblical teacher? Beth Moore. Priscilla Shirer. Mike Foster. Francis Chan. John Piper. Louis Giglio. Margaret Feinberg. Just to name a few.
As I watched, YouTube has this wonderful feature of making suggestions based upon your viewing history. I discovered The Passion Conference. Many of the sessions were on YouTube. As I watched, I discovered new speakers like Christine Caine.
I was amazed at the difference observing Lent made in my life. Everything I watched encouraged and built me up. Focusing on feeding my soul brought life and light to a difficult season. I felt richly rewarded by my adjusted focus.
I will be honest too, it only felt like a sacrifice for a day or two. After that I was excited to learn and be challenged by the wisdom of others. Focusing on feeding my soul was also such a great way to prepare my heart and mind for Easter.
This was also something I could not have done if I were not on my “Forced Mom Vacation.” Recovering Kid-free allowed me the time to invest in feeding my soul in this way. To soak up the teachings of others I respected. To grow my faith.
Life is a series of seasons. Some seasons are more limiting than others, but no season is a waste. Especially when we commit to making the most of each season. I learned that even in my extremely limited season, God redeemed the time. That doesn’t mean the pain and exhaustion were gone. My circumstances did not change, but my outlook and my attitude did.
What about you? In what ways are you limited in your current season of life? What are you doing to make the most of this season? How can your limitations be the channel through which God can encourage and bless not just you, but others? I hope today, regardless of limitations, you make the most of the gifts you have been given, even if those gifts come in unexpected packages.