I’d like to say I’m a gamer – but it’s probably more accurate to say I’m a wannabe gamer. I’ve almost always played on outdated consoles – I had the original Nintendo when other people were running 16-bit systems; and today I’m still the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii and about a dozen games that I play occasionally – mostly on nights that I can’t sleep.
One of the great frustrations on the original Nintendo was the fact that many of the best games had no save points – meaning if you ran out of lives, you were forced to continue or start over, without the benefit of either the progress you had made or any upgrades/achievements you may have unlocked. It was incredibly frustrating – and more often than not, I would just turn the system off and walk away. Luckily, this was a challenge that went away as gaming systems progressed – so much so that many of today’s gamer’s probably consider this memory to be ancient history – right up there with rotary dial phones and black and white TV’s.
While I can’t blame the technology anymore, my gaming habits haven’t changed much. I’ve got at least ten games started that I’ve never bothered to finish – partly because, as a husband and father, I now have other priorities – but if I was to be completely honest, it’s also partly because I find them hard and I can’t be bothered to dedicate the time and effort required to get better at it.
You might be reading this and saying “So what? You’re a grown man now, a father of five… who cares about your inability to master video games? Aren’t you a little old for this?”
If it was just video games that get treated this way, I’d agree with you. But this lack of perseverance carries over into many other parts of my life. I’ve got a stack of books on my dresser – 26 to be exact – that I’ve been meaning to read (some of which I’ve had for more than four years!) I’ve got two virtual courses (public speaking and music lessons) that I’ve been putting off for months. There are many things I’d like to do to build up my spiritual life or to improve my general health and well-being… but my good intentions don’t always end up producing great results.
Fortunately for me – and you, if this sounds like you -it is the perfect time of year to do something about it.
Lent starts this Wednesday (Ash Wednesday). For the next 6.5 weeks, everything our Church says and does is about letting God complete the good work He has started in our hearts (see Philippians 1:6). If you struggle to pray, there’s no time like Lent to start or restart the conversation with God. We’ll talk about giving things up – both bad habits (sin) and good things (fasting). There’ll be more chances to go to the Sacrament of reconciliation than any other time of year. Parishes host missions, youth groups run rallies and retreats, and online communities offer daily spiritual food delivered right to your device of choice. There are numerous chances to serve others and to donate to those in need.
You can look at Lent a lot like that new game (or even a new book) you open for the first time. There’s an excitement and a newness that comes with the season… but there’s also the danger that we treat our resolutions to pray, fast, or give with the same dedication we give to Mario Kart – One too many blue turtle shells from a computer that cheats, and we give up.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
The biggest difference in the Lenten season is that we don’t do it alone. Look around on Ash Wednesday and you’ll see others marked with the same Ashes you may have received – ashes that are meant to remind us of a call to change. Every single one of us – from my four-year-old daughter giving up some sort of yummy thing for Lent right up to Pope Francis and the sacrifices he’ll be making – are walking together on the same journey through these days. Furthermore, God Himself (the Holy Spirit) is working in your heart to make this Lent the time we might finally turn the corner on that sin or bad habit, or to build up our discipline to actually pray. And our part in this journey is the same it has always been: to open our hearts and cooperate with all these opportunities and the grace of God, to pay attention to the God who speaks as well as the needs of those around us, and to quiet down some of the things (good and bad) which may be keeping us from Him.
As we head into these incredible forty days, take stock of those things in your life you may have shelved because you’ve found them to be hard. Is it prayer? Is it a relationship you find particularly difficult (but know you are called to be a part of)? Is it getting over yourself and looking around for others? Is it a bad habit you’ve been trying to kick for awhile, but you can’t bring yourself to change? Have you been meaning to head back to Church and/or to start reading the Bible? Whatever it might be, ’tis the season to start. Let these forty days be the moments you start finishing what God has begun in you… not simply another forgotten game on the shelf.
And here’s a few places to help you get more out of Lent:
- Lentsanity! FOCUS Catholic’s resources for Lent (includes an app for your smartphone)
- Bishop Robert Barron’s daily Lenten Reflections (sign up to have them delivered to your inbox)
- In the Archdiocese of Edmonton, celebrate the “Day of Confessions” on February 17th – every parish will have their priests hearing confessions all day long.