“I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We’ll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.”
It’s easy to equate Lent with what we do during these six weeks – fasting, abstinence, extra prayer, giving something up… All of these things are good, but I don’t think they are the essence of Lent. After all, we could drag our way through six weeks, grudgingly offering up this or that, without arriving at Easter refreshed and renewed in our faith. While what we do is important, I believe that the “how” of Lent is more important than the “what” of Lent. Lent has a strong baptismal character. It is a time we have to reflect, to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, but also a time to repent of our own sins and renew our own conversion, as we prepare to renew our baptismal promises on Easter. Lent is a choice – a choice to follow Jesus more closely, a choice to leave behind a life of sin, a choice to embrace a life of grace. This is a choice we face constantly throughout our life, but Lent gives us the opportunity to renew it and focus on it more closely. It is a time to remember that conversion is not one moment, but an ongoing state of life as we journey through this life in hopes of living happily with our savior in the next life. Choosing to be a Christian is a big choice, but it is really the sum of little choices that we make everyday.
Following is a story I heard on a retreat a few years ago. It inspired me and made me think about how each choice I make every day influences who I am, and the “big” choice I make of being a Christian.
Michael is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”
He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”
Michael replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or .. you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or… I can point out the positive side of life, choose the positive side of life.
“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.
“Yes, it is,” Michael said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.”
I reflected on what Michael said. Soon thereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of! intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.
I saw Michael about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied. “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?”
I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.
“The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon to be born daughter,” Michael replied. “Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or… I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.
Michael continued, “…the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read “he’s a dead man. I knew I needed to take action.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Michael. “She asked if I was allergic to anything. “Yes, I replied.” The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, “Gravity.” Over their laughter, I told them, “I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”
Michael lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.
In Lent, we face the same choice Michael faced after his accident. Lent reminds us of our sinfulness, our wounded nature and our weakness. But, it also reminds us that we are not defined by our weakness, but by the love and strength of God. On our own, we are wounded, but because of God, we are offered new life. Every Lent, we have a new opportunity to say, “I choose to live.” Every time we offer something up, every time we fast or abstain, or do a good deed, we are choosing to Live. What we do for Lent can change, but how we live Lent should always be the same – freely choosing to renew our conversion, freely choosing to separate from bad habits or sin, freely choosing to love… freely choosing to live.
Wishing all of you a blessed and heartfelt Lent!