Forty Days: Letters and Silence

Lent has been my favorite time of the Liturgical year for the past three years. You might be asking, “Michelle, why? Lent is when you have to give up meat on Fridays and your favorite food or drink!” For a long time I had that same mentality: “Great, I guess I’ll give up chocolate for Lent (even though I really don’t have a sweet tooth).”

I didn’t understand the concept of sacrifice during that time. Then I started studying Catholic theology in college, delving into the Holy Bible, attending Mass on a daily basis, and having conversations with God. I slowly began to understand the sacrifice Jesus made during those 40 days in the desert. He went without food or water; he gave something up yet he took something on; He took on the challenge of being tempted.

The mentality that a person typically has when Lent rolls around is that they have to give something up; they have to go without something for 40 days. My question in the last three years has been, “why do I have to give something up when I can take something on instead? Can’t a sacrifice also mean taking on something in my life that will be a challenge?” So for the last 3 years I have been doing just that. I don’t give up anything for Lent. Yes, you heard me. I don’t give up chocolate, coffee or even social media. Instead, I take something on. I focus more on my prayer life or I do more for others. Most of the time I try to do both.

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Photo courtesy of The Odyssey Online

This year, I’ve decided to take on two challenges: One, I will write a hand written note to a family member or friend and send it in the mail (yes the actual mail, like with a stamp and a mailbox!). Two, I will live in silence in the mornings before work by spending my time in prayer and reading a good book.

I knew these would be challenging and I have already experienced some bumps in the road. I won’t lie, I have already forgotten to write notes for two of the days (don’t worry, I made them!). Every morning I get up and pray about to whom I will write a note on that day. I don’t just have a list of names that I go through. Whomever is on my heart and mind that day is typically who I choose. Forming the right words in these letters has been the most challenging because I don’t want all of my notes to sound the same. So, I always form it to how that individual has impacted my life and how grateful I am that God has put them there. I am mostly excited to see how this will impact not only my relationships with friends and family but also my relationship with God throughout the rest of Lent.

I chose silence in the morning before work because I typically put the television on to watch the daily news and the first 30 minutes of Live! With Kelly and Michael. I already don’t get enough silence in my day and so I figured that the morning before heading into work would be the best time for prayer and reading. This is only the third week in Lent and I wish that I could express to you how beautiful my mornings have been by taking on this challenge (Not to say it is not difficult at times, because there have been moments when I just wanted to see what actor or actress was on Kelly and Michael!). In the morning, temptation at its finest but I have not and will not fall into the trap! My time with God in the morning has been the most relaxing and rejuvenating time in the day. I go into work joyful and positive about what the day will offer. Silence is a grace. Silence allows you to reflect and to remember that God is always with you.

So I leave you with a challenge, even in the middle of this season: Take on something instead of giving something up. Pray more, tell your family and friends that you love them and you are thankful for them, take 10 minutes out of your day just to be in silence. Remember that taking something on is a sacrifice just as much as giving something up.

Michelle K. of New Jersey | Michelle is one of the creators of Traveling saints. While she is passionate about her job as a campus minister, she also loves to read, cook Pinterest recipes, and wonder about what part of the world God will take her to next.

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