You know that point? That stage a couple of weeks into Lent where those promises you made suddenly get hard?
It’s not that they weren’t before. Maybe the chocolate or coffee was staring at you from Day 1. Maybe the prayer time was getting shorter and shorter less than a week in.
But for me, I find that the determination and commitment keeps you going at first, or you coast by thinking “this is easier than I thought”, and then BOOM, it hits you. It’s tough.
I used to do the same junk-food-related standard Lenten fasts every year as an adolescent and young woman. I would give up chocolate, fast food, fizzy drinks, cakes, coffee. It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t a bad thing. Not in the slightest. In fact, the year I gave up sugar for Lent through the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program was one of the best decisions I ever made, and was not only my most successful Lent ever, but actually stuck, and changed my life (in many ways) for the better.
But since giving up sugar, I have found that my eating habits have naturally got healthier and healthier, and there is a lot less that I know I should give up in terms of food & drink.
So the last couple of years, I’ve taken a different view of Lent. I have tried to free myself from different addictions and bad habits. There are two in particular I have devoted the last couple of Lents to, and that I felt the need to try again with this year: laziness and materialism. I’ll get to the materialism in another post, but I wanted to share a little about the laziness.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a naturally lazy person. My husband will probably shake his head and tell me I’m the least lazy person he knows when he reads this. He is constantly telling me to slow down and stop trying to do so much.
No, my laziness is not a standard “lie on the sofa and watch TV for hours and avoid all exercise” kind of laziness. Although I do fall into that trap occasionally. What I mean is a laziness in the important areas of my life. It can look like a flurry of busyness that seems like the opposite of laziness. But in reality, this avoidance is a laziness in certain areas. Often ones that matter the most.
I can spend an hour needlessly pottering in the kitchen or browsing the internet trying to learn more about food photography or running a website or browsing through Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, having a rest, or learning new things. Of course not. But sometimes I start these things and then the day has passed me by and I haven’t spent as much time with my children as I’d like, or the laundry is still sitting
on the sofa in the basket and I can’t remember the last time I sat down at the piano and played something.
I am lazy with prayer, and I am lazy with creativity. I tell myself I am too busy, but the truth is, I lack motivation in those areas. And they are key to my wellbeing.
So this Lent, I have committed to a simple, seemingly very achievable goal: do 15 minutes of something creative every day. And not something I would be doing anyway or that has a productive purpose that needs ticking off the to-do list.
I know how full my soul feels when I make time for music, art, dance, writing.
Postnatal depression is tough. It is slow progress and you take it one step at a time, occasionally falling several steps behind and picking back up just to plod along slowly again. But when I make time for creative things, even just a little, I feel like I’ve taken a leap forwards.
It turns out even seemingly easy to achieve Lenten promises are tough. A couple of weeks in now, I have taken to collapsing in front of Netflix when the kids go down for a nap, or to busying myself with the stuff I feel needs to be done, and before I know it, the nap-time has disappeared and the chance for my own creative time slips through my fingers.
But as with everything, from giving up sugar to postnatal depression to prayer and even just life in general, when you fall down or you fall behind, the important thing is to not give up or beat yourself up. It is simply just to stand again and put one foot in front of another. One step at a time. Jesus did. His Easter journey was the toughest of them all. He fell, again and again, not into sin or laziness or self-pity, but into the hard ground under the burden of our sin. But every time, he got back up. And he took another step.
It’s been a long time since I made time for writing on Life With Open Arms. I’ve been wrapped up in other projects and I have not made time to fill my soul enough for it to overflow in words.
But here I am. Doing my 15 minutes a day. Showing up. Creating. Writing. Healing. Living.
And if you are struggling with Lenten promises, too, even the simple little ones, I hope you will be inspired to do the same. It’s simple, remember?
Don’t give up. Don’t beat yourself up. Get up. And put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time.