Lent: I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means

Lent is here and the Internet has a lot of opinions, doesn’t it?

I think we can sum it up like this:

  1. You’re doing it wrong.
  2. Put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others.
  3. It doesn’t require a public announcement.

You’re doing it wrong

By “you” I really mean “we.” We get sucked into all the details, y’all. So, at exactly what time on Sunday can I break my fast? Is it age 59 or 60, pregnant or nursing or what if I feel sick – do I still have to abstain from meat on Fridays? Are we supposed to give up something or can I just add something for these next 40 days?

I can just hear God shaking his head. The Lent police will surely remind you of all the rules. I’m just here to say, quit obsessing about the rules. Here’s the bottom line. On Easter, are you different than you were on Ash Wednesday? Are you better? Did giving up the creamer in your coffee, the alcohol, social media or anything else…did it make you grow in relationship with Christ? I think we try to do the least possible thing so we can tell folks we gave something up and then we pat ourselves on the back if we managed to make it most of Lent without said thing. As if checking the box was the point.

It ain’t the point.

As the priest reminded us on Sunday, “What you gave up, is it special, or are you just giving something up?” Ouch. Special for you may not be special for me and that’s exactly the point.

Put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others

Back when I had lots of littles, I’m not gonna lie. I slayed Lent. Like it was PINNABLE. I mean, that’s still a great Lent hack, but when you start to hang your hat on that crown of thorns where the kids add the toothpicks or the purple cloths over all the crucifixes or how you managed to slog through another painful Stations of the Cross service? That’s just you doing Lent, not being transformed by it.

I had a lot of Lents like that. My Pinterest board was full of things I was going to do with the kids. Like, it was my job to have “the best Lent ever” for my children. After all, they needed to understand the deep theological meaning that these 40 days were sanctifying. And yet, I would roll into Easter service – after planning our outfits for weeks, coordinating perfectly liturgically correct Easter baskets and making sure the house was decorated just so – completely and totally empty. Just like that tomb.

The energy I had expended on making sure the kids were really doing Lent, left me with nothing left in the tank. Sure, I had given something up and perhaps we had done some almsgiving, but had I really become better or just more hyper-focused on the mechanics of the season? It’s easy to do, y’all. Real easy.

But just like the flight attendant tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others, what does YOUR Lent look like? How are YOU growing in faith? You can’t minister to your own family if you aren’t tending to your own soul first. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

Back then, I wish I had chilled the heck out, done one small thing with the kids, read Stations of the Cross at home rather than lugging everyone to the church and refocused my own heart. Now that most of my kids are past the toothpicks and crown phase, we’re working hard to be more intentional with our Lenten fasts. It’s only because I finally decided to stop having a Pinterest Lent and chose to have a real one, instead.

It doesn’t require a public announcement

God bless social media.

I mean, if we don’t publicly acknowledge our fasts, Lent didn’t really happen did it? Sometimes, the accountability is good. But I’m a firm believer of this.

If, at Easter, people can see the difference in you then it’s not necessary for you to share what you’re giving up. Maybe giving up your nightly glass of wine meant you had more time to read Scripture, which led to greater peace and more patience with your kids, then bravo. That’s the sweet spot. But if you give up alcohol, only to brag at the next friend gathering that you gave it up for Lent and yet, you’re still the same jerk on Easter that you were on Ash Wednesday? That’s a nope. You’re just using Lent as social leverage.

You see, our friends and family really should be able to see the transformation, no matter how small a step that may be. Lent is meant to get us a little closer to Christ. To fall a little bit more in love. Some Lents we really take leaps and others, well, we just make it to Easter. Sometimes we choose our Lenten sacrifice, and sometimes it chooses us.

No matter what these 40 days make look like for you, no matter what challenge you take on, what you give up, how you add to your prayer life, let’s pledge this: FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS.

That’s it. Fall deeper in love with Him. Because when he’s your main squeeze, when He’s the one you rely on for strength and wisdom people see Him in you.

And that, is the whole point of Lent.


  1. Barbara on February 25, 2020 at 7:46 am

    My oh my did this resonate with me. My “littles” are now 23, 22 and 19 and we have an emptying nest. When the kids were little I did the. same. darn. thing. What a worn out mess I was by the time Easter rolled around, but how proud I was of myself for being a “good catholic mom” and dragging my kids to and fro to experience lent in a visible, outward way vs. simple and heartfelt. We all try our best, right? At the time I thought I was doing the right thing, and maybe some parts were good, but I know for sure I wore them out and myself overthinking and over planning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I so enjoy your posts, stories and blog. Happy Fat Tuesday and here’s to having a deeper, private, genuine lent this year. Blessings~

  2. Novella Byrd on February 25, 2020 at 8:18 am

    Very powerful post, thank you for your inspiration.

  3. Ingrid Stevens on February 25, 2020 at 8:19 am

    LOVE‼️ This will be my first ever observation of the Lenten season. I’ve been a believer for many moons….whoops. But better late than never. May we both know Him just a little more when Easter rolls around.

  4. Ann-Marie on February 25, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Love the hat tip to the Princess Bride. I’m already second guessing my plans given what I’ve seen on Instagram . . . Sigh. Yes. Closer to Jesus by Easter. That’s the goal.

  5. Linda on February 25, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Enjoyed your post. Let us all be brighter lights at Easter.

  6. Andrea on February 25, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Love this, and just the reminder I need when I’m tempted to question if I’m doing lent right! Thank you for your wise words

  7. Anne Clarey on February 25, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    Excellent post! Thank you, Kathryn. Just what I needed to read!

  8. Missy Stewart on February 26, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Is it special? Wow! Thanks for sharing that. It really struck deep with me. What was so “special” that it was taking up time that I could use during Lent to get closer to Jesus? It really made me think.

    I love Lent! I always feel lighter after the 40 days. This Lent I want to feel closer. I am most grateful for the small nuggets HE sends through brave women on social media who have said a resounding Hell Yes to Him by sharing their journey with us. It lights the way! Thanks for being one of those light bearers.

  9. denise on February 27, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    A friend shared this with me and all I can say is you nailed it. If the only thing you do this Lent is share this post and it’s sentiment with others you will have made it to Easter a new person

    Thanks for helping us all on our path to Easter

  10. Verdina on February 28, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Kathryn, once again you hit a nerve! God bless you for your insights!

  11. Erin on February 29, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    You just slayed this topic for all of us good hearted, hardworking mommas out there trying so hard to DO LENT that we make it all about the kids and all about the discomfort instead of about growing closer to God intentionally in a personal and specific way. Loved this;)

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