Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

How to Have an Imperfect Lent

How to Have an Imperfect Lent

I made my family chicken soup on Ash Wednesday. I don’t know what I was thinking – except that it was freezing cold outside and homemade soup sounded like a good idea. We had been housebound during a snowstorm and I knew the kids would love some warm soup. But it was Ash Wednesday. The very first day of Lent and I had already screwed up. I’m not sure how you observe Lent, but our fasting requires us to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Well, I typically don’t pay much attention to this requirement because I don’t eat meat anyway. But I do cook it for my family. #LentenFail

So what’s a mother to do when she’s gotten off to such an imperfect start? How can I be a spiritual leader for my children when I can’t even follow one simple rule? As W.C. Fields says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

I admit, I don’t think I’ve ever had a “perfect Lent” – one in which I stuck to my promise of sacrifice or prayer without faltering. I always start out with good intentions but somewhere along the line I give up. In fact, I shared my story with Inc. magazine this week when they profiled three entrepreneurs who use Lent to form highly effective habits. (By the way…Can you believe a popular mainstream business publication is writing about Lent? I’m honored God has used me to evangelize in this way!) But if you read closely, you’ll see me confess that I didn’t quite make it through 40 days of my Lenten practice last year. So I'm convicted to making it go better this year! Although, I’ve come to realize it will never be a perfect process.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we make mistakes. That’s why he sent his beloved son to save us from our sins. The only thing God expects is that when we fail, we try again. So here I am…trying again.

I believe that the idea of Lent is to learn to be more Christ-like in our everyday lives. The three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – were integral habits of Christ’s during his life on earth. When we choose to incorporate one or more of these habits in our lives during Lent (or anytime!) then we’re saying, “I want to live like Christ!.” And that’s not an easy task. So, give yourself permission to falter. But remember that God is pleased with our efforts and our willingness to try.

If you’ve “given up” on Lent, I want to encourage you to try again with me. Don’t beat yourself up about whatever it is that you consider your failure. Just open your heart and ask the Lord to guide you in selecting a sacrifice or habit you can develop this Lent.

Maybe you can replace a daily habit you enjoy (like watching TV or eating a snack before bed) with a daily habit that will glorify God (like saying a prayer or writing an encouraging note to someone). Maybe you can take the money you would normally spend on coffee and donate it to a charity. Whatever you choose, remember that Christ stumbled three times with the cross – and each time he got up again. If you stumble on your Lenten journey (like I did!), simply get up and keep going.  

The important thing is to get started. If you need some inspiration, try one of these seven unusual ideas to shake things up for Lent. Or, if you want to join me in journaling your way through Lent, start with these Christian journal writing prompts. I created them specifically to reflect on themes that emerge along the journey of Christ’s death and resurrection.

And if you want me to guide you step-by-step through a six-week journal writing experience that will deepen your relationship with God, try the Write to Christ program. It will change the way you pray and give you the tools you need to develop a spiritual journal writing practice you can use all year long.  

Most importantly, when you stumble along your Lenten journey, please know that I’m right there with you. Together, we’ll offer up our #LentenFail and start over again. Sound like a plan?

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit!

Publication date: February 27, 2015

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