This time of year, I generally revere my brother-in-law as a saint.
You see, he gives up all snacking between meals for Lent-- including a bedtime snack. For me (and the other "hangry" women in my family who can't go a few hours without getting the munchies), this really constitutes sainthood on earth. I'm the type that sees the ads for Matthew Kelly's "Don't Give Up Chocolate This Lent" and I say, preach it, brother.
But despite being on the lower rungs of the ladder to Heaven, I've been putting a lot of thought into what I wanted to do for Lent this year. And as I prayerfully considered all the giving up and the adding on, I realized the biggest question I need to be asking is what will bring me closer to God?
Sacrificing things (like food!) can and does turn our hearts and minds to God because there's an emptiness we experience when fasting, and because we can't fill it with the usual temporal good (food, TV, social media, chocolate) we are nudged to look higher, to look eternal, to the all-fulfilling Creator of our hearts and desires. This is the goal of Lent.
But often we fall short. Sometimes we give up things for Lent and simply fill our time or tummies with other things. We endure the sacrifice instead of thrive from it. We miss out on living life to the full (John 10:10) and instead simply experience the emptiness. I've decided to give up social media because of the amount of time I spend on it. But if I don't fill that time with prayer and acts of charity and self-reflection, if I simply fill that time with other selfish pursuits, I will lose out on the grace and gifts God wants to give me.
I encourage you to take some time in prayer today. You've just finished the Ash Wednesday fasting so perhaps your mind and heart are clearer to hear the Lord's voice. Maybe you already know what you're doing for Lent or maybe you're a little behind the bandwagon. Seek God in prayer and ask Him what's taking up space in your mind, your heart, your life right now. What does He want you to sacrifice for 40 days? What will empty you so that you can be filled with Him?
This is the God who fills the hungry soul with good things (Psalm 107:9). When your life, your stomach, and your schedule are so full you may not realize how hungry your soul truly is. Make space for Him.
Because His gifts and His presence are so much better than chocolate.