I must confess, when Lent is over and I am finally able to stop giving up the stuff that I promised to sacrifice back in February, I feel a little guilty about it. I mean for all those weeks I had been trying so hard to be successful with my sacrifices that returning to my old ways of behaving seems a little wrong. Looking back over the last few months, and the choices I made, I learned a little bit about myself.I once heard a talk on my local Catholic radio station by Fr. John Riccardo in which he said that the season of Lent is an extraordinary time to grow in holiness and a time to make a plan to ‘look’ more like Jesus. After hearing that I quickly stopped giving up sweets and dieting as my Lenten sacrifice and really looked at what I could do, so that by the end of the forty days I would look less like my selfish, impatient self and more like a loving wife, mother, and grandmother.So, waaaaay back on Valentine’s Day I made some choices to try to do just that. A few years ago, a friend of mine decided that during Lent she would do anything her husband asked of her without complaining, and without telling him she was doing this. She said it was difficult, but that she was glad she did it. To my knowledge I don’t think she ever attempted it again. This year I decided to try a slightly similar approach by attempting to ‘be a blessing’ to my husband everyday. By this I mean that I was going to try to do at least one thing everyday to make his day better whether in words, actions, or prayers – and to do so without his knowing.
At the beginning of every Lent I always start off strong with a firm purpose of keeping all my promises with vigor and conviction. So this year making breakfast for both of us on busy weekday mornings, and cooking healthy foods in order that we both could eat nourishing lunches and dinners was not too difficult. Going out of my way not to argue and give in to his choices on activities was slightly more challenging, but I really wanted to bless my husband, so it meant giving up a little bit of the selfish me along the way.
At the halfway point of Lent is when I usually struggle the most, and this past Lent was no exception. I needed to try extra hard to listen all the way to the end of a floor hockey story or detailed account of a business trip. I persevered and I even tried to ask pertinent questions about those experiences. We prayed together more often than we have in a long time, and it was amazing how much this strengthened our marriage – especially lifting up the concerns of our hearts before each rosary or chaplet. Being vulnerable with each other was challenging, but I know it made us genuinely concerned for one another and the things weighing on our hearts.
As Holy Week approached I could tell that my husband was noticing a little difference in the way I was behaving, and he, in turn, was noticeably more patient with me; we laughed together more over situations that typically would have made us angry, and we tried harder to accommodate one another’s wishes. It was a blessing for us both. In the evening of Easter Sunday as we were getting ready for bed, I “confessed” my Lenten sacrifice to my husband, and he was not surprised at all – he said that he saw a difference in me. Hubby was truly appreciative of my efforts and thanked me, but more importantly, I felt I became a different person as a result of this ‘being a blessing’ experience. The words of Fr. Riccardo were echoing in my head as I felt that I was loving my husband in a more sacrificial way, and I believe it changed both of us for the better. Now that Lent is over, how can I just stop ‘being a blessing’ to my husband? Well, quite honestly I won’t stop – I will continue to be more mindful of his needs and concerns, and I know this awareness will impact both of us, as we continue to do our best to get each other to heaven – the purpose of our sacramental marriage.
A priest friend of mine once said that there are forty days of Lent but fifty days of Easter – so while we sacrifice before Easter, and should rejoice even longer after Easter. He recommended finding a way to remember the joy of Jesus’ resurrection and to be thankful for His gift, whether lighting a candle everyday, going to daily Mass, or any number of ways to show our joy and gratitude. As the Easter season continues, friends, I will be joyful and thankful for the blessing this Lent was for me, my husband, and our marriage.