For many of you, this may be the point where your Lenten devotions begin to waiver, or maybe even fall by the wayside. The initial furor with which we dedicated ourselves to reform, spirituality, and holiness appears to have been swallowed up by the ever present distractions over the past handful of weeks. It may be subtle. You suddenly recall that prayer you were committed to saying each day has been forgotten for the last three. The snacks you’ve forsaken have finally managed to wiggle through your (initially) firmly closed lips, even for just a ‘taste’ – after all, what’s the harm in that? The social media you’ve turned your back on – Oops! – you accidentally opened the app on your smart-phone. “Oh well, let’s have a quick gander before we close it again. It’s no big deal.” And suddenly, your dedication to pulling one article of clothing from the closet or drawers each day for donation is becoming extremely difficult to do! “Lord, I might need to wear that if I ever find the perfect pair of matching pants!”
How on earth do we get back on track? And how can we hope to carry our new practices beyond the 40 days of Lent if we can’t even make it to 30? There is no easy answer to this question but allow me a moment to make a suggestion. Give yourself a break. “What?!” you say? A break? That seems a bit counter-intuitive. No, seriously. Give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself over the head and lugging around the guilt and embrace the fact that you are a flawed human being, imperfect in so many ways, but to God, so incredibly lovable with so much potential. When a child flounders, struggles, or even fails, what do we tell them? We say, “Chin up!” or “Try again!” or maybe “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” and “Practice makes perfect!”. Guess what? All of those little cliches apply to you as well.
We are so far from perfect it’s not funny. And yes we fail, but that is also how we learn. It’s how we TRAIN. It’s how we improve. Don’t wallow in the defeats. When you do, it only drags you down and makes it all the more difficult to continue, to try again, to persevere. Set it behind you and move on. Move FORWARD. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. It’s all part of being hopeful. Of trusting. Effort does matter in the spiritual game – even if it doesn’t matter much elsewhere in our lives. As long as we are trying, we are making progress. So get to Mass. Go to Reconciliation. Visit our Lord in the tabernacle. Reflect. Discern. Evaluate. Do whatever it is you need to do to ‘get right’ and ask for more graces. More grace to give you courage. More grace to lift you up. More grace to forgive, to persevere, to find peace. Then get back to your Lent and your spiritual journey, having learned a little about yourself, your attachments, and your obstacles through each and every unintentional (or maybe even intentional) detour along the way. As long as we are learning something about ourselves when we slip – we have the opportunity to improve.