During Bible study this week, we got off on a bit of a tangent. This is not an unusual thing, 😉 as we almost always run a bit long due to one discussion or another! When our study first started, I used to feel a little impatient when we would get off subject, because I wanted to focus on what we were studying that week, what we were “supposed to” learn. As the weeks went by, I realized that these off topic conversations were also helping us grow. Sometimes it was a question about our faith, sometimes it was a personal story, sometimes it was noting how God touched our lives, or the lives of someone we know. The discussions gave everyone the opportunity to learn more about others in our group, have questions answered, and the impact that we, as Catholics, can have upon our world.
This week, our study started off with a conversation about Lent. Which is quite fitting, since today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We all know that Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A penitential season to prepare for the joyful Easter season. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are ways to help us grow in self-control.
When you think about it, a lack of self-control is what can lead us into sin and unhappiness. Sometimes we let anger dictate our actions, then end up saying or doing things that we regret. Learning to bite your tongue, and not lash out in anger is a valuable skill set! Taking a moment to collect your thoughts so that you can have a conversation and calmly discuss what is on your mind generally leads to a much better outcome. Whether we struggle with food, alcohol or drugs, casual sex and the “hook up” culture, gossiping or lying, or any of the other vices, we can work to increase our self-control, and overcome the addictive behavior.
We may enjoy snacks or sweets, or just plain struggle with the desire to eat more than what our body needs. I tried a toffee recipe a couple of weeks ago, and it turned out so perfectly delicious! Dan is not really a fan of toffee, so of course that left me to eat all of it. As I finished up the little container last night, I knew that I had consumed far too much sugar. My body didn’t feel great, and it was a great reminder that I need to have more self-control. Despite how great it tasted, I definitely shouldn’t have eaten all that sugary, buttery, chocolate deliciousness.
It’s a wonderful example of the struggles we all face with over-consumption. Whether we love shopping for shoes, or playing violent video games, or listening to music with demeaning lyrics, or watching movies that are truly a waste of our time and brainpower. Whenever we use “any means necessary” to win a game or a promotion, no matter who gets hurt in the process, we are really hurting ourselves, and our relationship with God the most.
That is why we have a conscience, to remind us when we’re straying down a path we shouldn’t be on. We don’t have to be like everybody else, to not speak up about something we know is wrong, out of fear of “offending” someone. That is not to say to be mean or judgemental. But we can be a reminder of goodness. We can let Christ’s light shine through us. We can pray for, and exhibit, and encourage others to use self-control.
Lent is a wonderful opportunity to pray, reflect on our faith life, to really focus on self-control and grow in prayer, and in our relationship with God. How are you starting this Lenten season? Would you like to join me in working on self-control? I encourage you to go to Mass, to seek out the sacraments, to fast and abstain, to read The Bible and join a Bible study, to take advantage of this opportunity to increase your faith.