The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 112: Lenten Goals
Hi friends. If you’re listening to this episode on the day it comes out, then tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, 2023. If you were born and raised Catholic, you just might be considering what you’ll be giving up for Lent this year: chocolate, sweets, swearing, social media, maybe even coffee (if so, friend, may God please bless your family in advance!). Maybe you’re considering adding a prayer practice, or some kind of spiritual reading, or maybe you’re making a commitment to move your body more. All of that is great. For me, for the very first time ever, I am considering my ‘what’ to do for Lent by first deciding my ‘why’.
For us cradle Catholics, a Lenten discipline can be like the very water we swim in; we do it because we’ve always done it before. It’s possible we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about why we do it at all, but this year, I’m encouraging us to approach the whole thing a bit differently by asking the question: what results do you want to see by the time we get to Holy Week and Easter Sunday this year?
If your customary discipline involves skipping soda or sweets, something like that, it just may be that the ‘result’ you’re looking for is a spring reboot of your physical body or appearance and if so, you are definitely not alone, friend. I hear tons of Christians of many denominations saying some things along those lines, but may I gently suggest here, friend, that that is not what Lent is for.
Lent is a spiritual wilderness that you walk out with Jesus and Lent should take you somewhere. The question for us, then, is: where will this Lent take us? Where do you want to be, spiritually speaking, on Easter morning?
Do you want to feel a closer personal relationship with God?
Do you want to be more compassionate to all of God’s people?
Are you missing encounter with the Holy Spirit and want to try cultivate that this Lent?
Do you want to experience Jesus in the least of these through service to His people?
Are you tired and burned out and want renewal?
Do you feel you’re lacking in understanding about what Jesus actually said and did when He was here?
Are you missing community and fellowship and want to find God in and through and with other humans?
Do you need more peace? More energy? Do you want to feel the truth of God’s love for you for yourself?
Is there an area of your life that’s holding you back from the freedom God is offering you today?
Well bottom line, friend: God wants good things for His children. And so today I’m inviting you to go to God in prayer and ask Him to show you specifically where He’d like to walk with you this Lent. Lent is by definition a wilderness experience, but it’s not wilderness for wilderness’s sake. Let’s not limit ourselves to checking off boxes of meatless Fridays and rosaries and other sacrifices – though those are very good – but let’s not do it without knowing our end goal. Lent should lead us somewhere and God, who knows everything knows precisely what we need to work on and where we need to be in order to live more joyful, more peaceful, more holy lives. He really does, friend. By zeroing in on your ‘where’ and your ‘why’, it will be fairly simple to discover your ‘what’ in terms of a practice or discipline because your ‘what’ will logically support just where it is that you and God are going.
To help you make sense of all of this, it might help for me to tell a little of my own Lent story.
Lately, I had been observing an anxiety in my spirit around my worth. Now, anxiety is nothing new for me, friend, believe me, but in the last couple of weeks, I had noticed patterns around believing what others thought of me, or what I imagined they thought of me, and I’d value that input much higher than my own assessment, or on who it is that God says I am. It’s been a real struggle for me, honestly, as I put myself out there in this podcast, and in my writing, singing, and teaching – all very public work – to not internalize the input of other people, or in the metrics which are so readily available for the things I make and put out there. ‘Likes’, ‘downloads’, ‘subscriptions’, even compliments, comments, or kind words – it was all kind of swirling around in my head and heart as I struggled to gain footing with my own ‘why’. I was feeling a bit unmoored, truthfully, and I knew I was probably headed to some kind of fast from other people’s opinions this Lent, but I was not sure what form that should take.
A couple of nights ago, I prayed the rosary and then I sat and asked God if there was anything He wanted to be sure that I ‘heard’ from that time of prayer. I sometimes use the rosary as a sort of ‘dumping ground’, putting all of the many intercessions right there in the beads which, I know, not great – but in the silence there after I was done, I felt a few lines from an old children’s book floating around in my head and I felt compelled go upstairs to find it.
The book is called You Are Special, by Max Lucado. It was an Easter present to my then two-year old son from his godfather and the book was one of our very favorites for many years, as demonstrated by the cracked and worn binding and what I think might be smashed cheerio bits stuck to the pages. The book tells the story of Punchinello, one of many wooden Wemmicks who lived in a village all together. All day long, the Wemmicks stick gold stars or gray dots on each other, approving or disapproving of each other according to lots of different metrics: their appearance, their talents, their personality. The story is about Punchinello’s quest to learn how to make those stickers not stick. Hmm.
This book was written in 1997 and our copy was given to us in 2000, well before smartphones and social media made it so very easy to for everyone to judge everyone all the time. More than two decades later, this nudging by the Holy Spirit to go find that book was confirmation for me about the ‘where’ God wants to take me this Lent.
I don’t want the stickers to stick anymore. I don’t want other people’s opinions or characterizations, or any other metric to weigh me down anymore and in this particular wilderness of Lent 2023, I will aim to do precisely what Punchinello did to solve his problem. I’ll spend more time with my maker than I do paying attention to all those stars and dots. To help support my goal, I’m taking a break from making podcasts and also in watching how they “perform”, and I’m putting some serious guardrails on my social media use, too. I’ll add in more prayer and Bible reading disciplines and routines so that I’m regularly hearing from God more than people about just who I am. And I’ll journal through it to make sure I’m hearing from my own spirit, too.
Where I want to end up on Easter is clearer, wiser, more purposeful, and more certain about how I am seen, known, and loved by a very big and personal God. I want to be sure that any work I am doing for the Kingdom comes out of that wellspring of belovedness that God wants to show me and is not about approval or marks from any people or the world. I want to align myself properly for this next stretch, so this Lent is a timely touchstone of some work that needs doing in my mind and spirit, a particular wilderness that God and I will walk out together.
And so, friend, I’m wondering, how about you? What’s an area that could use a bit of work in your spiritual life? What do you think your loving God most wants for you in this time to live more abundantly? Where might you and God be heading, and what are some practices that might help you to get there? Let’s take some time to think and pray about that today.
Thanks so much for listening. As I mentioned, I’m taking a break from the podcast for Lent, but I will be offering short form writing reflections as I walk through the wilderness. To receive those and my new monthly newsletter along with any other updates, please head over to kerrycampbell.org and hit the subscribe button for you and maybe even a friend who might need some encouragement and direction in your inboxes this Lent. At kerrycampbell.org you can also catch up with Raised Catholic episodes you might have missed and also all of my writing – years of it – if you’d like to read through some of that as well this Lent. I pray it’s a blessing for you.
You can find helpful Lenten resources in the show notes as well, so do check that all of that out but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Jesus, you said that you came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Help us to put a good plan in place this Lent, knowing that you want the very best for us, that you know exactly where we’re headed and that, even in wilderness, that we’re never ever walking alone. Bless each person listening to embrace the journey that you most want for them in love. We pray in the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of our mother, Mary, amen.
Okay friend, that’s it from me today. Have the most blessed Lent. I’ll praying for you, and I’ll see you next time.
This week I’m encouraging us to choose our Lenten practices and disciplines by first deciding where we want to be come Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Choosing our ‘why’ and ‘where’ will naturally lead us to the ‘what’ that will best support us to walking our this wilderness with Jesus who came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Let’s trust and walk with Him this Lent toward a more abundant, more holy, more joyful and peaceful life.
As you’ll hear in the episode, I’m taking a break from the podcast for Lent, but you can catch up with all of my older episodes and writing at my website, kerrycampbell.org, please subscribe while you’re there so we can stay in touch and you can receive my written short Lenten reflections and my new monthly newsletter in your inbox.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Photos from You Are Special, by Max Lucado, illustrated by Sergio Martinez
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Children’s book: You Are Special, by Max Lucado
2. Came across this article after my podcast episode was written – felt like confirmation for us! ‘What should I give up for Lent is the wrong question to start with,’ by Joe Laramie, S.J. with America Magazine
3. Lenten Bible reading plan from She Reads Truth
4. Helpful Instagram follows
Kate Boyd: Weary Christians Welcome
Craig Cooney – Daily Prophetic
Lauren Winter – Brick House in the City
Alissa Molina – From Here Media
5. Album: House on a Hill, by Amanda Lindsey Cook
6. Podcast and Lenten Book Study from Abiding Together
7. Song: Prince of Peace, by Hillsong United and TAYA