I can recall my Lenten promises as a kid. I wore that ash on my forehead with a confidence that I could face this forty day period without soda; without chocolate; without bad language. But that was a false confidence because I did not have any strong ties with soda, chocolate or bad words throughout my childhood. So, I thought I was sly when I’d express my “challenge” to others–this challenge that wasn’t very challenging.
It was not until 2013, my sophomore year of college, when I actually became conscious of what Lent really is and the sacrifice it requires. It’s the time in our liturgical year when all are called to humility, called to repentance and called out of ourselves by Truth. And so, I learned that coming to terms with the truth of who we are cannot be expressed by our culture’s obsession with personal fitness, self image or self esteem. Rather, coming to the truth of who we are requires not only an external conversion but an internal one as well.
So, for the past three years, I have ixnayed the makeup…that’s right ladies, it can be done! Want to know how? I don’t have expectations because every day is a new experience with new surprises: will I have a giant zit on my chin today? Will everyone notice my dark circles from my late on call shift? Will my sunburn start peeling? WHO CARES!
Experiencing Lent in this way is humbling and cleansing, as it should be, right? Practicing a non-makeup lifestyle serves as a daily reminder of who I am and whose I am (I know, typical Catholic anecdote but it’s true).
This Lenten practice not only allows me to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes every day, it also allows me to look outward–to truly experience what is going on around me, to experience something other than a perfect selfie, to see where God is taking me each day. I also learn a lot about the people around me each Lent. I begin to see them for who they truly are: What do they value? Where do they find joy? Is it in the mirror or is it on the altar?
Being a clean slate for people to easily see keeps me accountable to this forty day promise but even more than that, it serves as yet another sign of God’s Truth for others to see. Now, isn’t that the real challenge?
Mary Colleen of Pennsylvania | MC is one of the creators of Traveling saints. When she isn’t at work, MC is playing her uke, tweeting something sassy and dancing like a fool…simultaneously.