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One year, I was in the same Lenten rut that I had been in since my first Holy Communion. What should I give up? This particular Lent, I decided to “give in” rather than “give up.”
For a long time, I had been holding back when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to visit a lonely person or reach out to a neighbor. There were so many people in my life that I wanted to “say yes” to, but there was never enough time. To be honest, as a homeschooling mom with five kids, I didn’t always have a lot of free time. But that wasn’t the whole story. Having kids was also an easy excuse to avoid doing extra things that I felt the Holy Spirit inviting me to do.
This particular Lent, I decided to challenge myself to say yes when I thought the Holy Spirit was prompting me to take action. My schedule would belong to the Holy Spirit! If someone asked me to spend time with them—and it didn’t interfere with my essential obligations—I would do it. I was proud of myself for trying something different. For the most part, though, I just expected my kids to ask me to play board games. I would cheerfully join them, and then check “Lenten sacrifice” off my to-do list.
Not So Fast, Patty. I was shocked when the Lord made it clear that he was going to take me up on my offer in a bigger, bolder way. Within just a few days, a widow who lived a couple of streets away stopped by. She said she would like to have some coffee with me. I did a mental check of my schedule and said, “Yes, I’d love to!” She came over, and we had a lovely time over coffee and conversation.
Less than a week later, I got another call. This was from a former neighbor who had suffered through breast cancer, and was still having many difficulties. She asked if I could come over for lunch on that day. I don’t remember her ever being so open as to invite me to lunch, much less on short notice. As I looked at my calendar, I realized that this was the only day that I was free for a lunch date! Somehow, God knew my schedule better than I did.
Throughout Lent, God kept putting people right smack in my path. At times I found myself a little nervous to answer the phone or walk around the neighborhood. Who knew—I might have an unexpected opportunity to say yes! However, I forced myself to stay open to “interruptions” and be true to my Lenten challenge.
The Blessing of Being Interrupted. Eventually, I began to realize that interruptions were a gift that God was giving me, not a curse. Life is always short on time, but God had a way of increasing my time. He found little spots open in my schedule and helped me fill them. This enriched my life, and other people’s.
That Lenten challenge did so much more for me than help me break a sugar addiction. It graced me with deeper relationships, new friends, and a deeper appreciation for the value of saying yes to God’s plans for me.
When Lent ended, I noticed that I had become more aware of the little whisperings of the Holy Spirit. My Lenten promise had heightened my awareness of the people around me, and how I could respond to them.
Jesus is Always Available. I didn’t publish my secret Lenten plan; I didn’t broadcast it on Facebook—it was just a simple decision on my part. But Jesus heard it, and he took it seriously.
Unlike me, Jesus doesn’t have to make a special resolution to be available. He is always ready and eager for us to offer a little bit more of our hearts to him. And the more we give him, the more grace he gives us.
As Scripture says, “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Patty Whelpley and her family live in Northern Virginia.