Imagining Jesus in the desert for 40 days reminds me of how some see Lent as a time to dread – with thoughts of sparseness, rules and restrictions, and the act of giving something up that we enjoy. While I now understand how this sort of discipline can be good for the soul, I also look at Lent as a time for beginning a healthy new habit or practice. During Lent I try to be disciplined about starting something new - and sticking to it. Research shows that it takes 30 days to form a new habit. So wisely using the 40 days of Lent can enable us to begin a new and lasting lifestyle.
What can you do during these 40 days of Lent to achieve a fresh new beginning or to “resurrect” your life at Easter?
To prepare for Easter, during Lent I usually try to do something that will strengthen my relationship with God. In a bulletin message I recently read, the Pastor said to consider the quality of our prayer. He challenged us to move from repeating a set of prayers, to having an open conversation with Jesus; from asking God for things, to thanking Him for blessings we’ve already received; from rushed and busy prayer time, to more relaxed and silent listening so that we can become more aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Some of the practices which have helped me develop a closer relationship with God have included talking to God throughout the day, following a plan to read through the entire Bible, and taking time out for retreats such as those offered by Charis Ministries. One activity I’ve recently added is weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, something I now look forward to doing every Sunday night. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to calm my mind, still my body, and connect with God as I plan for a new week. There are so many ways to grow closer to God that I’d like to try. How can you ever learn everything about someone – especially someone as amazing and complex as our God? My personal ideas for practices to begin this Lent include: starting and ending my day with prayer – making this a daily, rather than occasional, practice; attending Mass and spending time with the Blessed Sacrament more than once a week; and praying the Rosary more often.
What steps or activities might help you to achieve the new beginning you’d like Lent to bring to your life?
The Gospel reading today also speaks of Jesus’ time in the desert as preparation for his mission. God has a mission for each of us, but how can we discern what it is? I’ve personally felt led to God’s mission for my life through conversation with Him. In quieting my mind and body, I become open to the thoughts and ideas God places in my mind. I have found this happens to me the most when I spend quiet time in a church or chapel. I also try to remain tuned into other signals He places in front of me – perhaps something I hear the moment I turn on the television or radio, or a magazine or other piece of literature that seems to have been placed right under my nose.
Finally, the part of this week’s Gospel that I tend to shy away from contemplating is how Satan might be attempting to derail my path toward God or my discernment of the mission God has for me. In my life, I feel Satan might manifest as doubt, fear, or anxiety about the mission I’ve found God has for me. I think Satan can tempt in the form of distractions during prayer time, and by suggesting that stress or worrying is the way to face challenges in life. But deep down we really know that becoming still in prayer and allowing God to help us with our problems is a far better route to take.
Praying the Rosary is one practice I’ve recently found to be very valuable in my prayer life. When I helped care for my Grandma, we tried to recite the Rosary together every night with Mother Angelica on EWTN. Once when doing so, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort with the realization that the most important thing I need to do in life is to work to become closer to God. Placing this as my top priority took power away from the anxieties, stress, and worry that always seem to accompany any problems in life – whether at work, at home, or elsewhere. This Lenten season I look forward to adopting new practices to further deepen my relationship with God and maintain the courage and discipline necessary to do the work He has planned for me.
About the Author:
Valerie Skarbek combines her television production, writing, and community affairs experience to do marketing, development, and grant writing work for nonprofit organizations. Originally from the south suburbs of Chicago, she received a BS in Mass Communications from the University of Florida and an MBA from the University of California-Berkeley. Valerie asks for your prayers as she prepares for her first mission trip to work with children at orphanages and schools in Uganda, Africa this summer.