“Are you throwing snow for the dogs to play?” asked my three-year old son, Samuel. I stopped shoveling, straightened up with my hand on my sore lower back, and looked around, dumbfounded. “Well, yes, I guess I am.” When Jesus said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” He knew exactly what He was talking about.
Samuel’s question dumbfounded me because, like many of you, I had been shoveling snow – and shoveling and shoveling and shoveling – simply to clear a path from our door to the car. This narrow vision of necessity was all I could see. It wasn’t exactly inspiring. But in the eyes of my little boy, I was doing something much more worthwhile.
The path to our driveway borders a dog park. The neighborhood dogs were busy running and rolling around ecstatically in the snow. He logically concluded that I was throwing more snow over the fence for them to play. The drudgery of mere necessity suddenly became the happy task of delighting my son by adding to the dogs’ fun. All it took was a slight change in perspective and my attitude was instantly transformed.
It can come as a shock to experience how even the slightest change in our point of view can upend our attitude towards pretty much anything, including digging out from under Winter Storm Jonah. Isn’t this why Jesus spoke in parables? Didn’t he try to get his listeners – namely, us – to see things from a different perspective, from the vantage point of our Father in heaven?
What would happen if this year we decided to change our perspective on Lent? How might our attitude change? Do we view Lent as an uninspiring, annual Catholic necessity of having to give something up? Or might we step back and ask: what would we have to give up – or what would we have to do differently – to make those in our life just a little bit happier?
Matthew Kelly at Dynamic Catholic has produced an excellent resource this year: Best Lent Ever. The tag line is: “Don’t give up chocolate this Lent.” (This marketing strategy has proven very popular among many, including my own dear wife.) But the deeper point he makes is this:
“Lent is the perfect time to form new life-giving habits and abandon old self-destructive habits. But most of us just give up chocolate. Then, when Easter arrives, we realize we really haven’t grown spiritually since the beginning of Lent. Lent is not just about giving things up, like chocolate. Lent is about doing something—something bold to become a better husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, friend, neighbor. What if this year you did more than just give up something during Lent? Do something life-changing.”
We’ll be using this resource at the Catholic Center this year to help us enter more deeply into Lent. Take a look. Perhaps it’s something your own parish might consider.
Have you ever had an experience that suddenly changed your perspective on Lent and transformed your attitude?