Lent without a map

By giving up the usual Lenten expectations, Lent can cultivate trust in God.

This year’s Lenten Season has special significance for me. For the first time in my lifetime, Easter will fall on my birthday.

I am used to having April 24 to myself. Sharing the date this year gives me a singular opportunity to spend the weeks beforehand interweaving my physical life-journey with my Lenten spirituality

So how can that play out?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Nor do I want to know. I am one of those people who tend to set high expectations, only to be let down when I can’t fulfill them. This time, I need to find out where God will lead me without any expectation of where I will end up.

The path I follow through Lent is also unknown.

I don’t like to equate Lent with New Year’s resolutions so promising to read the Bible daily isn’t sufficient. I also learned many years ago that simply giving up something for Lent can have little meaning. (As a child, I decorated shoeboxes with crosses and other holy symbols, and into those boxes went any candy—my usual “sacrifice”—that was offered to me during Lent. Of course, that meant that I ended up with a nice little bonanza of sweets to add to my Easter basket goodies. I clearly didn’t get it.)

This year, I hope to go deeper, but in a direction to be determined along the way. Instead of a daily examination of conscience, I'm spending reflective time each day examining—I’m not sure what. At least initially, my thoughts have been chaotic.

But that’s where faith comes in. My instincts are nearly always to create order and explanations. Can I move through this Lent without superimposing those instincts or trying to map the way? Can I trust that God—not I—will bring order out of the chaos? Or will I learn to appreciate the chaos? Or something else?

Will my Easter-birthday cake commemorate something new in my life?

Time will tell.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.

About the author

Stephanie Niedringhaus

Stephanie Niedringhaus is the Communications Coordinator for NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby (www.networklobby.org).