In the blink of eye I looked up and saw it was the first week of February (already?!?). Picking at my field greens and sipping my soup, I mentioned to my friend, a fellow authorpreneur, that January blew by like a freight train. She lit up in agreement, and mentioned how that reinforced her decision to make this year, the “year of putting herself first”.
“Time is just moving too fast, and I have to start saying NO to people, or I’ll never get done what I really want to do.” I picked some more at my leafy lunch before asking a follow-up question. I knew she wasn’t a taker, she was a giver. She’s a passionate literacy advocate with a teacher’s heart. Still, she had a point about that NO-thing.
We both pondered my next question. “Do you think it’s having your energy pulled in different directions that’s the problem? I mean, helping other people is a good thing.” And that’s when I found the right word, focus!
We all come out of the gate on January first, charging into the new year with fresh goals ahead of us, and plans to chase them down. But with our re-energized selves, offices, homes, schools and churches all taking off at the same time, it’s not long before our schedules start to pull away from us in a different direction.
As a Catholic I love getting to start each new year twice! We start with everyone else on New Year’s Day, and then about a month and half later, we can really get down to business with the beginning of Lent. Those 40 days prior to Easter allow us to conduct a little reconnaissance, evaluate our start to the year, inventory any baggage we have brought along from past years, and really focus ourselves on what’s most valuable and worthy of our efforts.
So back to the lunch conversation, I guess we should be able to say NO to people, but not until we are prepared to deny ourselves first. During Lent we can practice denying ourselves of our routines, impulses and addictions in order to build up the virtue of Temperance. Why? As we practice temperance, we conduct a little internal “spring cleaning”. With greater temperance we have the increased “capacity” needed to focus our renewed selves, come Easter.
And maybe it’s the lack of temperance that keeps us from being more affective in January. Consider the the period of time (about the same duration as Lent) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s filled with occasions of indulgence and celebration. Many people are exhausted come January and looking for things to “get back to normal”. That’s not really the mindset required for a life changing campaign (a.k.a. Resolution).
Contrast that to Lent, a period of self sacrifice, prayer and focus. Lent provides fuel for our renewal and helps make Easter a powerful season! If you read my article last month on what it takes to make lasting resolutions, you know how serious I take planning for the new year. I have lofty goals and need to improve myself, and grow as a person, to accomplish them.
I need Lent.
Another common practice during Lent is to take on something new, like adding spiritual readings or prayer to a routine or begin a new practice of selflessness to bring about required change. My inbox recently received a couple invites to embark on a such a journey. The first is by Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic, where they want to help people have their Best Lent Ever. The second is by a social media group launching the #ShareJesus campaign. Both looked intriguing to me (and both are free) so I’ve signed up. If they help me focus (there’s that word again), and prepare for Easter’s rebirth, it will be well worth it.
Temperance and prayer will create clarity. Clarity and focus equals advancement for one’s self. But more than that, this recipe can also create advancement for one’s world.
When we grow and become better suited for our grand endeavors, we inspire people. A good Lent may be just what you need to bring about that transformation.
So who’s with me? Who else is ready for Lent?