It’s Good to Feel Dusty Sometimes

It’s Ash Wednesday! Lent is here! Lent is here!

I love Lent. I love what it means… I love why we do it… I love what we’re preparing for. In my experience, I’m not the only one who feels this way. In conversing with Catholics (and traditional, liturgical Protestants, for that matter) the overwhelming attitude towards Lent is that it is one of their favorite liturgical seasons of the year, if not their favorite.

A season of fasting, penitence, and sacrifice… favorite.

Why do you suppose that is? Here’s my theory:

Lent is a time of renewal. Renewal of our relationship with God most importantly, and our attitudes and relationships towards what is around us… whether you are working on patience with your family or your attitude towards a particular vice you’re trying to kick.

During Lent, we re-prioritize. We give up something we love, not because we’re masochists, but because self-sacrifice is good for us. In our time and age, that’s going against the grain in a major way. We live in an age of unprecedented convenience and luxury: I want a hot meal in the next five minutes but I don’t want to cook- so I’ll go through a drive-thru. I want a new book but I don’t want to leave my couch- I’ll buy it online and download it onto my e-reader. Point being, picking something you love and choosing to go without it chips away at your “old man”, your flesh that indulges you with what you want instead of seeking God’s best for you.

Lent is also an opportunity for healing. This year, I’m giving up smoking. Yes, yes, a terrible, nasty habit that will kill me if I don’t stop. I don’t mention it for pats on the back or to point to my piousness. I mention it because it’s a habit that I picked up in a time in my life when I was so far away from God, and so far away from faith. It’s the last vestige of a life I don’t live anymore, of a person I am not anymore. It’s time to let go of what kills us. Maybe your thing isn’t as literal as my thing, but if we miss this opportunity to get real with ourselves and with God, if we look at Lent as a test where we see if we can give up marshmallows for 40 days and that’s all, then we miss an opportunity for grace.

Last year I didn’t give up smoking for Lent, though I knew that I should. I was too afraid. We humans are foolish, not stupid. We know what is killing us, and it is often one of our favorite things. Nobody likes to suffer, but as St. Paul tells us:

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

When you go to get your ashes today, when you hear the words “Remember, o man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return”…. log it away. As the shiny newness of Lent wears off and the struggling comes and you hate it because it’s suffering, remember that it’s good to feel dusty sometimes. We are dust that God still chose to redeem.

Remember, too, that giving something up is half the battle. We must replace it with something else. Namely, prayer. My old pastor used to say, “Fasting without prayer is just dieting.”

Have a blessed Lent, as we prepare our hearts for Christ and renew our relationship with God!

6 comments
  • MartinaFebruary 22, 2012 - 5:56 pm

    I love this! I always need a kick in the pants to pick something extra challenging.

    Prayers for your success of kicking the smoking habit!ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany PerkinzFebruary 22, 2012 - 6:57 pm

    “Fasting without prayer is just dieting”….I love it! I may have to stea it for my facebook status. 😉

    Beautifuly written post..it spoke to me 🙂ReplyCancel

  • ErikaFebruary 22, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    Great post. I wrote from a slightly different prospective today, but still getting to the point that Lent isn’t the Church’s pity party — it’s the preparation for THE best day of the Church.

    The priest I heard tonight spoke about how Lent should be our time to focus on our spiritual relationship with God. He compared it to the week that priest (in my diocese or all?) are required to take for retreat. I thought that was a great way to look at it too.

    The priest from earlier this afternoon (yep, I went twice — once by myself as my lunch break and once with my family), also focused on the joy we should experience during Lent. Incredibly enough, his homily went very well with my own blog post for today. I don’t know what my sacrifice is this year, but I know I’m going to try to make this Lent special.ReplyCancel

  • KaylaFebruary 22, 2012 - 10:08 pm

    You said it right! Lent is also my favorite time on the Catholic calendar because of the reasons you have mentioned.ReplyCancel

  • robbieFebruary 23, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    Andrea, My favorite line: “We know what is killing us, and it is often one of our favorite things. ” Yes, though for most of us it’s an interior, “invisible” death…perhaps that we aren’t even aware of. Too bad the surgeon general’s warnings get more notice than those from the Bible or the Magisterium (Humanae Vitae comes to mind!)

    Good for you for trying to kick smoking, and for your honesty about being afraid last year. I pray that you will be able to cling to your cross through the difficult moments in the days to come and offer them for the deadly-to-the-soul addictions that are so pervasive in our world.ReplyCancel

  • Emily WFebruary 23, 2012 - 8:41 pm

    I’m a recent convert to the Catholic faith…last Easter to be exact. I often observed Lent, while Protestant, but being Catholic it makes things so different for me. I gave up nicotine 540 days ago. I would say it was easier for me because than most that I quit with on a website because of my faith, but one thing remains, it’s better to quit with someone who has quit before you. So, if you know of someone, or you can even email me and i’ll give you my cell number and when you’re craving, you can call. It will be hard, it takes 72 hours for nicotine to leave your body, but then it’s the mental game afterwards. I too understand O know what can kill us,I am a nurse and well aware of all the cancers that would be caused by my nicotine habit. I’m proud of you! Taking the first step is the hardest, it takes 21 days to make a new habit, but please warn your family you might be a little irritable or be in the “fog” for months. I will be praying specifically for you this Lent season. But, all in all, Lent is my favorite time of the year and my Christian faith never had a favorite time of the year, until I became Catholic and I greatly appreciate this site…since I’m new to becoming a Catholic Sista.ReplyCancel