Looking for Lent in All the Wrong Places

Looking for Lent in All the Wrong Places

Lent scares the daylights out of me.

Every year I spend weeks trying to think of The Thing To Give Up or The Thing I Will Start Doing, wringing my hands all the while.

In recent years, in fact, I’ve looked up and realized three to four days have passed and I still haven’t done (or not done) something for Lent. At that point, I flog myself (figuratively) for being a Lent failure, then proceed to go through the season feeling heavy and guilty and lousy for not “doing” Lent.

Ashes? Or quicksand?

I find the whole thing overwhelming. I look ahead for 40 days and see peril and pitfalls everywhere. Each new days feels like an opportunity to falter, to let down God in a way somehow more profound than the ways I let Him down every other day.

Am I the only person who does this? And why is this so hard for me? There are infinite possibilities for acts to perform, treats to avoid, books to read, prayers to say. Heck, Franciscan Media has a whole page online devoted to Lent and ways to approach it.

Yet I freeze up like a deer in headlights each year as Ash Wednesday approaches, seemingly ready to plow me down as it speeds toward Holy Week.

911: Emergency!

My friends, I need your help. What can I do, or stop doing, this year? I need something I can actually stick to and accomplish and, in doing so, glorify God.

Do you have any suggestions for a Lent loser?


Illustration: freedigitalphotos.net/Ambro


About the Author

Jennifer Scroggins works in Marketing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • http://www.facebook.com/EdRio Ed Rio

    How about cutting back on one -or some- of the gadgets used daily? Then taking those few minutes to pray, read the Bible or something by one of the Saints.

    In your little bio there it says you’re passionate about fitness. You could offer up your workout for the elderly/disabled. Or maybe pray the Jesus Prayer.

    I think the best thing is to keep it simple and uncluttered. God has a way of taking the little things and snowballing them in His good time. 

  • Sandrelacita


    I read this article last night, and it pulled at my heart.  Lent is NOT about being perfect, not messing up, choosing something that we can for sure do.  It’s about making an effort to grow our compassion and understanding of sacrifice and the true and pure love of God.

    One year, my roommate (in college) gave up playing solitaire, which she used as an escape from her homework.  But she didn’t just do her homework instead – when she felt that “urge to escape,” she escaped into the word of God, and would read her Bible for a few minutes, or spend time praying.  I think that was my first experience with “real” Lent – if whatever you’ve chosen doesn’t bring you closer to God, then it’s worthless.  So, whatever you pick, devote it to God and understand that the point is to develop communion with God and our fellow humans, not to prove anything to yourself or others.

    You got this!! (:

  • Anonymous

    God did not create “losers”, but everything that is good!!  We cannot look at Lent as a time to impress or disappoint the Lord, God  does not need to be impressed.  We need to be impressed with God and his love and forgiveness! 

    Lent is not a reality show like “Survivor” (who will survive the 40 days and win the prize of God’s approval!)  Just be your self and love God with all your heart, mind ,and soul.  That is all you have to do!  If you love God like with all your heart and pray to the Holy Spirit, then your actions will follow.

    Take a deep breath and trust in the Lord!!

  • Gary Jones

    Jennifer, Lent is a time of penance and prayer but it certainly shouldn’t be a source of the angst that I sense you feeling.  Whenever I find myself experiencing such emotions I am called to mind of the simple (not easy) solution to correct the situation: Balance.
    We live in a world that screams imbalance and we find ourselves acting like a pendulum in an old grandfather clock – constantly swinging back and forth from one extreme to another.  It is almost impossible to maintain a reasonable perspective while chasing our own actions.
    God called for balance in all things.  Jesus spoke of it often.  When He told his detractors to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s he was providing us with a perfect example of balancing and accepting the secular and non-secular elements of our existence.  Another example of his belief in the importance of balance was when he reminded Judas that although though the oils they had obtained might fetch a great price in the market – at that moment, they were even more valuable as a medicinal aid to help Him be ready to continue His mission.
    So this year, instead of worrying about all the acts to perform, treats to avoid, books to read, prayers to say, ad. infinitum – use this Lenten season to find ways to improve the balance in your life.  When we strive to have a life of balance the time for the prayers, books, and acts seems to miraculously become available.
    So as you pass through the next 40 days, try to follow the path of balance instead of getting caught in a traffic jam of extremes.  The path of balance continuously provides us with another opportunity to move to a centered existence and the spiritual peace that comes from understanding that balance is an ongoing journey and not a destination.

    • Jscroggins

      Wow. This is awesome advice! My life is a constant battle with finding balance. Your comment really speaks to me, and I thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/Jose_Galvan Jose

    Ascetic sacrifice seems to be the goal,  but service is also wonderful! In past years I have told myself to only post on social media about things I love and NOT things I hate. It’s harder than you think For example “Politician X is the worst!” can be replaced with “Politician Y is kind for doing A B and C” It really serves to frame the world in a different way.

  • Donna-Maria Freckleton

    February 22, 2012

    Hi Jennifer:

    I attended Mass and Morning Reflection at Our Lady of Bethesda Chapel in Bethesda, MD, and Fr. Daniel Wilson guided us on reflecting on “DISCOURAGEMENT” and the story of Elijah and Elisha.

    One of his recommendations was to sit quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament and listen quietyly, as well as just spend a couple of minutes each day quietly.

    I would also recommend Minute Meditations published by this web site.

    Hope these recommendations hlep in your 2012 Lenten Journey!


  • Anais

    Dear Jennifer – I have a simple suggestion.  Spend 5 minutes a day perfectly still. Preferably alone in a room (or Chapel or Church), in front of a crucifix.  Do this every day, preferably at the same hour of the day.  I believe you will soon understand why.

  • Jscroggins

    To all of you, thank you so much for these wonderful comments! It is so heartening to hear your words of wisdom and to know you’ve taken the time to share pieces of yourselves with me. I am so grateful to be part of this Catholic community. Bless you all!

  • Anniew92069

    Lent is a chance to start over, not your time to suffer for what you imagine is disappointing God.  Just as small children learn each day from loving parents, we are called to learn from a loving God.  Don’t look at your failures; look at your growth opportunities.  Did you learn from your mistake?  Will you try not to repeat it.  And remember, God has infinite patience, infinite love, and infinite mercy.  He isn’t looking at your failures.  Like a loving father, he is watching you grow, mature, and move ahead in faith. 

  • Junefuery

    I have read all of these comments and am thankful for such sound advice given to Jennifer , as it is also helps me, too. Great suggestions to work from. Thank you all. God bless. 

  • patty

    I am a little late, just joining in today.  All of my life I have thought about things to give up or changes to make during Lent.  This year I have thought action would be best for me, and I am trying to do something out of my ordinary schedule for someone each day.  I want to show love to others through action. Our response to Christ’s words, “Feed my lambs” calls us to a deeply moving life-changing strategy that can begin for some, or be strengthened for others, especially during Lent. 

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