I’ve always found Dr. Phil’s catchphrase ("How's that working for you?) a little annoying, but recently I asked myself his question with regard to Lent. The answer? Not so great.
Some Lents are much better than others in terms of discipline, organization and prayer. This isn’t one of them. I was traveling on February 25, forgot what day it was and had a hamburger for lunch, after which I remembered that it was Ash Wednesday. Not exactly a stellar start to the season.
You wouldn’t know it to look at my life, but I am a closet perfectionist. If I can’t do something right, I don’t want to do it at all. If I’m late getting started, I would rather not begin at all. So, naturally, I was ready to blow Lent off this year. But then, of all things, I thought of the Grinch. He wanted to prevent Christmas from coming by destroying all the trappings, but it came anyway.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore. What if Lent isn’t so much a period of time, but a change of heart? What if it isn’t really too late after all? What if Lent really does means a little bit more? Obviously I couldn’t do Lent the perfect way that I wanted, but since when is Lent about perfection?
So with what is remaining of this special time of year, I resolved to do just one thing—literally. I decided that each day as my Lenten discipline I would do one thing that I didn’t want to do. Immediately my perfectionist side leapt forth with a list of requirements as to difficulty and duration. It has to be something you really really don’t want to do and it has to last a long time so it’s really really painful and you have to do itfirst thing in the morning and and and.
I sent her to sit with the Grinch. I’m doing just one thing I don’t want to do each day. That’s it. That’s all. The first day I put my coffee mug in the dishwasher as soon as I was done with it instead of leaving it in the sink. Another day I sorted the mail and tossed the junk in recycling before I even came in the house. Another day I got out of bed the minute the alarm rang instead of pushing snooze for five more minutes. You get the idea. None of these things is all that difficult and they are things I should be doing anyway, but they are a lot harder than they appear. St. Paul nailed it when he said: For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.
This year, I’m trying to do the good I want, one small thing at a time. In many ways, it’s shaping up to be the best Lent ever. How about you? How’s your Lent going? Remember, it’s never too late to have a great Lent, no matter when you start.