“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” -Lk 9:23
After over ten years with our minivan, the time had come to lay it to rest. We needed to embark on one of my most dreaded tasks – shopping and purchasing a new vehicle. Cars don’t excite me. It’s not an emotional purchase for me. I’m not enticed by how they look or the amenities. Maybe it’s because we were shopping for a minivan! However, when we were test driving vehicles, I discovered that technology and features have really changed in 10 years! Those extra little amenities were nice and I found myself gravitating to the next higher trim level versus the “bottom of the barrel”.
My favorite amenities were the seat warmers and the ability to start my van from inside my house. Awesome features for someone who hates to be cold!
Recently, we began Lent and I heard a homily from one of my favorite priests, Father Mike Schmitz. He talked about how our default is for comfort and ease. Humans naturally desire to escape the stress and struggles and we think if we escape those challenges, we will be free to be happy and fulfilled.
As soon as I heard this, I immediately thought of our new van purchase and how jazzed I was about the seat warmers and automatic starter. Holy smokes! Our default is for comfort.
It didn't stop there. I thought back to how true this statement was in my life. Gosh, I love the comfort of my bed and sleeping in as long as possible. I would much rather seek solace under the warmth of the blankets than get up a little early to pray before the kids wake up. I find that when I want to escape from doing the laundry or cleaning the kitchen, I waste time scrolling on my phone. The temptation to default to comfort is very real!
However, have you ever stopped to think how resisting the temptation and giving up those comforts can impact our relationship with Christ?
Jesus gave the ultimate example of love when he freely spread His arms on the cross. When I deny myself, I love more like Jesus. It can be the little things. I can turn off my seat warmer and in my slightest discomfort, I can pray for those who don’t have warm shelter or someone who is going through a difficult time. When I set my alarm a little early and escape the warmth of my covers to spend time in prayer, I am honoring and choosing God as my priority. Rather than escaping a mundane task, I can go about it without complaining, thanking God for my family and being grateful I can share His love with them.
I have found that when I have a purpose for giving up my comforts, it makes it much more meaningful. During the Fridays of Lent, I have been fasting from eating between meals and sweets. Sometimes, I really struggle with the temptation. However, I have found that when I identify a purpose for my fasting, my motivation to persevere is strengthened. For example, last week, I started my day by saying that I was going to fast for a family member who was struggling with health issues. Every time, I felt a temptation to go to the kitchen, my loved one’s face came to mind and I prayed for her. It was all the motivation I needed to persevere.
This Lent, I invite you to join me in taking the time to more fully contemplate Jesus’ ultimate act of sacrificial love for us- suffering and dying on the cross. Saint Mother Teresa expressed it so well, “When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.”
1. Where in your life do you seek comfort and ease?
2. Are there one or two lifestyle changes you can make to intentionally move closer to Christ, imitating his love?
3. When you think about your relationship with Christ, when are times you have seen the most growth? Was it a time of hardship?