Catholics come out of the woodwork on Ash Wednesday, even on college campuses. A sense of competition is in the air: Who has the coolest looking ashes? Who is giving up the most challenging thing for Lent?
Competition doesn’t quite capture the essence of the season, though. Lent is not a contest for the largest ashes and most outrageous thing to give up. It’s also not a second chance for your New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are about you. I want to lose weight, so I am hitting the salad bar at the dining hall and heading to the gym that I might as well use because my tuition pays for it.
These might be great resolutions, but Lent takes us to a deeper place.
Lent is about you + God
We give things up during Lent to grow closer to God, to make more space for God, to rely more on God. This offering helps us realize that God belongs at the center of our lives — not our studies, our internships, our schedules, or even our beloved phones.
How we choose what to give up for Lent should flow from a reflective conversation with God, not a competition with others. You might start by giving some quiet time to contemplate the things in your life that are an obstacle to a deeper trusting relationship with God. What is something — a habit or a thing or a food — you could give up during Lent to make more room in your life for God? What is one thing you could add to your life during Lent that would help you grow in your relationship with God?
This type of prayerful reflection can help lead you to decide what you are doing for Lent with God, rather than coming up with ideas on your own.
Subtract the obstacles
Here’s a very general list of things that might be hindering your relationship with God. Take these or other ideas to prayer, and see what speaks to your heart:
- Screen time in the form of mindless scrolling or browsing
- Social media posting or selfies
- Netflix, Hulu, Youtube
- Gossip or complaining
- Being late
- Sweets and treats
- Alcohol or your favorite drink
Add the assets
Once you zero in on what to subtract, pray about what you could add. What habits or practices will help you grow your relationship with God this Lent?
Here are some ideas to get you started. Remember, don’t pick 10 — one or two will be more than enough to sustain over 40 days if you select practices that resonate in your heart.
- Sign up for a daily Lenten reflection email (here or here), or follow our #WhyWeLent campaign on Instagram
- Get back to basics: attend Mass on Sundays during Lent
- Explore a new types of prayer
- Start a prayer journal
- Do the examen prayer at night
- Join a Lenten small group with campus ministry
Whether you are doing a total spiritual reboot or you have a robust prayer life, Lent is your opportunity to go deeper with God. By prayerfully adding and subtracting a few things during Lent, you will be better prepared to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, and you’ll be experiencing new life in your own relationship with God.