Lent is a time to upgrade your internal drives.
I was doing dishes in the kitchen last week when my son Jacob came in and started unloading the dishwasher. While generally dishwasher unloading is a job that belongs to the kids, I had not yet asked anyone to empty it.
“Who are you, and what have you done with Jacob?” I said to him. Jacob smiled—he knew what I meant. While I would never describe Jacob as lazy, he usually needs to be reminded to do his jobs around the house.
“Is this a new and improved version of Jacob?” I continued. “I like it.”
“Version 2.0,” he said, alluding to system upgrades on computers that get a new number each time.
It does feel like Jacob, at 15, has received a recent upgrade. It’s nothing dramatic—upgrades seldom are. It’s the same Jacob but with more power and stronger capabilities.
Jacob 2.0 has made me stop and think about Lent as a time for all of us to upgrade to a stronger version of ourselves. Every so often at work, a pop-up will appear on my screen and tell me that an upgrade of some program is available. I’m prompted to click “Upgrade now” or “Remind me later.” In my company, “No, thanks” is not an option. The IT department has decided that we all need the upgrades, it’s just a matter of when we choose to take them.
The same is true for Lent. Each Lent, the church suggests an upgrade—and we have the choice to upgrade now or be reminded later. Given the choice of receiving an upgraded self, why then do many of us choose the “Remind me later” option? Why do we pass up allowing God to change us during Lent in favor of continuing as we have been?
I suspect it’s the same reason I often choose not to upgrade right away at work. Upgrading on a computer means you need to stop what you’re doing for a bit; the computer needs to shut down and restart. Many times it’s easier to click “later” and not take time out at that moment.
Upgrading within the context of Lent means turning parts of ourselves “off” so that God has space to make a change. God needs us to step out of our regular lives so that we can be restarted with more power and grace.
If you’ve chosen the “Remind me later” option in the past, you can make a commitment to choose “Upgrade now.”
Plan your own retreat: “One Lent I set aside time for my husband and me to go on a ‘retreat’ at home that I had planned,” says Colleen, a mom in her mid-30s. “We lit candles and read the books of Isaiah and Hosea and had discussion points. It really opened up our faith lives to one another and helped us reconnect.”
Work with God to make a change: “Every year, I pray about it, then pick something to change about myself, and every year it is a 40-day journey to that change,” says Amy, a mother of three. “One time it took four Lents of trying to make the same change before it happened—it was giving up talking badly about other people. I always pray more, always do the rosary, always do adoration—so it is my favorite time of the year spiritually.”
Break Lent into smaller chunks: “For a while I felt like I was failing at Lent because I couldn’t sustain my commitment,” says Jack, a dad in his 40s. “Then I decided to take it week by week. Now, one week I’ll make a point of serving at the meal program; another week I’ll read to my kids every night. By the time Easter comes, I will have done a number of good things, and I’ll feel that I changed for the better.”
This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 3, page 49).