Last week we were talking about Lent at the dinner table, and one of the Sisters shared about how she was suddenly struck this year about how Lent is really primarily all about relationship, our relationship with God. That’s the point of the season: to restore us and strengthen us in our relationship with Him. It’s about a Person.
That reminded me of this article that I wrote that I shared with you last year. I think it’s worth a re-read. (At least, I’m going to re-read it. ;-))
“So . . . what are you giving up for Lent?” The best all-time answer I’ve ever heard to that question comes from Fr. John Peter Cameron, editor of Magnificat: “Here’s what to give up for Lent: the doubt that goes, ‘I can never get closer to God because I’m too sinful, too flawed, too weak.’” Lent really is not about giving up, but about receiving. Fr. John goes on to say: “Lent is not about lamenting our inadequacy. Rather, it is a graced moment to receive from God what he is eager to give us so that we can live the friendship with him that he desires. . . .”
This approach requires a major change of attitude on most of our parts. We are so geared up for what we should do for God, when what is uppermost in the Lord’s mind is his desire to draw near to us, to give himself to us. If what we decide to give up would, in fact, encourage greater friendship with him, that would be one thing, but for many of us, we fall too readily into the following two categories. Either we succeed in doing what we’ve set out to do and just grow stronger in our pride and self-sufficiency, and in a real sense, further from God. Or we fail and grow less confident in God’s mercy. “How could I expect him to show me mercy after I fail to do one simple thing like giving up chocolate for Lent? I mean, how hard is that?”
Of course, I’m not saying that self-discipline isn’t important or that chocolate in someone’s life may not indeed be a stumbling block in his relationship with God, but for so many of us, the main obstacle we face is our lack of confidence in God’s goodness and his love for us. We hide from him, as Adam & Eve did after they sinned. We think that we can’t come to him unless we’ve got everything together. But notice God’s first words to them after their fall. They were not: “What have you done?!” but “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) After listening to the serpent, Adam and Eve doubted his goodness rather than placing their trust in his unbounded mercy. Otherwise, they would have run to him like the prodigal son to his father. His first concern was the restoration of relationship with them.
St. Thérèse encourages us along these lines of trust: “Sanctity does not consist in this or that practice, it consists in a disposition of heart which makes us humble and little in the eyes of God, conscious of our weakness but boldly confident in his goodness as Father.” (emphasis added)
Again, I am not minimizing the seriousness of sin. What I am saying is that the first step, and the most important one, is dealing with mistrust in the goodness of God toward us.
So this Lent, you might reconsider what you should give up. Perhaps it should be mistrust or doubt of the Lord’s goodness towards you. Look at the obstacles in the way you think about your relationship with Him. Listen to the Father calling out to you: “Where are you?” If you’re hiding because of lack of confidence in His goodness, try just taking one small step toward Him. Come out from behind the bushes of doubt. Put aside the sin of mistrust and you might be surprised to see Him running toward you with arms wide open.