Does Lent still count if the sacrifice is small?

cybergedeon_BONG_grayMost years I know what I plan to sacrifice for Lent for weeks, sometimes months, in advance. Even the year I decided to give up giving stuff up I was clear on that well ahead of time. It’s not that I schedule making these decisions. Usually, what I need to set aside for a time is simply self-evident. There is an element of faith that is part of the process. But this year Lent snuck up on me. With Ash Wednesday only a few days away I suddenly realized that I had not actually given this Lenten season any of my time or attention. While it’s true that Easter is early this year, I don’t think that was the issue. And it’s not that my faith-life has been neglected – quite the opposite. Since this time last year, Brian and I have joined and become involved in the life of a new church. And we’re launching an organizational change at work. Oh, and let’s not forget that I am mentoring for Team in Training this spring…

Brian tells me I am the queen of over-functioning. It’s good to be queen, right?  Except this honorific doesn’t come with a crown or any of the other trappings of royalty. This distinction comes with long hours, high stress, and little sleep. Plus one other by-product that has evolved over the past year. Although I am a died-in-the-wool morning person, it has become increasingly difficult for me to get out of bed and get going each morning. I have started lingering in bed longer and longer, with the excuse that I am using my iPad to follow blogs and share with my network. I work in the social media space, so that’s like work, right? Of course, what used to be 15-20 minutes each morning turned into a half-hour. And that doesn’t account for the rest of the time I spend watching TV, petting the cat, and calculating just how many more minutes I can stay in bed without being embarrassingly late for work. Get breakfast at the deli instead of at home?  Five more minutes. Get lunch at the deli instead of packing my own?  Five more… I set up the TV in the bedroom to turn on at 6:00 am and automatically shut off at 6:40. The theory was that I could get ready while watching the morning news and the TV clicked off right about the time I was heading to the kitchen to make breakfast. Now, I am generally still in bed and have to turn the TV back on because I haven’t even gotten up yet. I have an objective measure that I am now staying in bed at least 40 minutes longer than I was a year ago.

So, this year for Lent I am giving up sleeping in.

I set my alarm clock for 5am, every day, and the “rule” is that I must get up when the alarm goes off and cannot get back into bed.

My night-owl friends (of which, ironically, I have many) are probably laughing and/or rolling their eyes at the idea that I think I have an issue with sleeping late. One friend already commented that even with all my lolling about, I’m generally up and about by 7:30 most days, including the weekends. And my friends who already get up at 5am every day are not impressed either. Even if it’s ‘kind of’ hard at first, conventional wisdom is that my body will adjust to waking earlier. So, where is the so-called sacrifice?

Observing Lent is not a contest to see who has the most extreme sacrifice. The one who suffers most doesn’t win a prize. It is meant to be a time of personal preparation and to honor the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. Who is to say what is required for someone to do this preparation?  Is the classic ‘giving up sugar’ somehow more (or less) honoring than any other choice someone might make, like not sleeping in? A seemingly smaller choice may open the door just enough to let the Spirit in. I try not to judge my own Lenten choices and instead simply do my best to honor that choice and see where it takes me. I cannot think of a single Lenten season where I have not reaped unexpected insights from that season’s journey and I expect this time to be no different.

How is it going so far?  It’s early days yet, but here are a few initial observations…

  • To get up earlier, it helps to go to bed earlier, but going to bed earlier does not necessarily mean you will fall asleep earlier.
  • If you are going to get out of bed immediately, you have to put the iPad in the other room.
  • In spite of getting up easily 2 hours earlier than usual for the past 3 days, somehow I have not managed to use my iPad at all. While this was not an intended outcome, it does raise an interesting question about the chicken-and-egg nature of the cause of my problems with getting up in the morning.
  • Getting up and out of bed at 5am on Saturday is no fun (but it does contribute to getting blog posts written).
  • I already miss the delightfully wonderful luxury of lazing about in bed with my husband and my cat.
  • This may not be as easy as I thought.


There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.  ~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

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4 Comments on “Does Lent still count if the sacrifice is small?”

  1. Janet B. says:

    Hi Lyda, I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while (stalking?) since my niece posted a link on FB last year. Good stuff. Anyway, I just wanted to comment that I don’t think getting up at 5 a.m. is a small thing at all! What a good idea. I’m afraid Lent totally snuck up on me too this year, and I haven’t thought of anything to “give up”. I hope you don’t mind if I use your idea!

    • Lyda K. Hawes says:

      So glad you have been enjoying the blog. And they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so please borrow away!!

  2. Dottie says:

    Lyda,
    You raise an interesting question about Lent.

    Many years ago, I had a Dominican priest raise a question that is similar to “What are you going to give up for Lent?”. He asked “What are you going to add for Lent?”

    I’ve always thought that was a better question. Many people give up turnips and green peas for Lent because it is easy — don’t like them anyway. Or giving up sweets to lose weight.

    By getting to sleep earlier, you are taking care of yourself and assuring that your body and brain will be all that it can be the next day. This is exactly what you should be doing. Each child of God should do the best they can to take care of what they were given to make the world a better place.

    I have long questioned the Catholic notion that penance improves the good folks. It simply depletes their energies that could be better spent comforting or caring for the lonely or sick.
    It is time that could be better spent helping the Food Bank or hospice group.
    Climbing a mountain or stairway on your knees? It may look great on your religious CV, but
    it doesn’t go down in the “Good Works” column.

    Jesus mocked those who looked dirty and wore ripped clothes as a sign of penance. He said they should be clean and wear their best clothes.

  3. ashlynsmom99 says:

    I happen to appreciate your Lenten commitment. Redeeming the lost time in our lives is a good thing. It’s amazing how I don’t have time to do whatever is important, but I can somehow find the time to play SEVERAL games of Words with Friends… 🙂


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