Approaching the desert: It’s time for pruning

By Casey Sprehe, NOLA Catholic Parenting

As the high time of Mardi Gras season approached, I found myself wondering about Lent. What should I do? What should I not do? Feeling a pull to massive withdrawal and purging probably due to the sensory overload that is Thanksgiving + Christmas + Mardi Gras, I decided to go to adoration to pray about what God wanted from me this Lent. (Disclaimer: 90% of the time when I am drawn toward something, I pretty much go with it. Sadly, turning to God isn’t always my first response. Thankfully, this time it was.)
My pen flew effortlessly over my journal. Maybe my current self needs more pruning than I care to admit? May-be I was convicted before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Little bit of A, little bit of B.

   Get up in the middle of the night with a child in need before my husband does. Do it happily. Don’t tell him about it in the morning.

Don’t complain about always being in the kitchen feeding people. Do it joyfully. Rejoice over the children in my midst.

Just be with those in front of me. Put down the phone and the to-do list and just be with them. Christ is in my midst if I have eyes to see it and a heart ready to sit with him.

Be joy-filled when my husband comes home from work. Resist the temptation to view him as my life-preserver who is keeping me afloat till bedtime.

I was shocked as I looked over my notes and realized how terribly I’m currently doing those items. Complain, complain, distract, complain, repeat. Conviction overcame me. The Holy Spirit will convict us of our sin (John 16:8). I closed my journal with the conviction that in order to do better, I needed to lean into Christ more fully. His power could break the cycle.   

These actions aren’t in isolation of fasting. The ascetic practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving prune my human weakness and bring me into the desert with Christ in way in which other prayer forms don’t.

There’s a current program about Lent that says, “don’t just give up chocolate.” I’m not knocking the program, as I’ve done the program and received Lenten graces from it. It transformed my heart to be more focused on the Suffering Christ and for that, I’m grateful.

However, the slogan, to me, underestimates the power of fasting. I’ve found that giving up something I truly do enjoy (I’m looking at you, strawberry Abita and dark chocolate almonds) as a means of denying myself actually does move me closer to the cross.  Fasting reveals to me how much power food has over me. The reality is, in moments of stress, giving up dark chocolate almonds is easier than lifting up a prayer to God. A strawberry Abita and some front porch sitting feels instantly better than taking 30 minutes to go on a walk and pray. By denying myself of those, it causes me to stop, and turn to Christ in the hard moments instead of whatever the current distraction or euphoric experience may be.

I’m convicted that God’s call for me this Lent is to assume the ascetic practices in conjunction with walking in the desert of my own life more joyfully. Pray for me, because a beer and chocolate sound much easier right now.

Casey Sprehe is a wife, mother and a parishioner of St. Benilde in Metairie. She spends most of her time schooling her two oldest, playing with her two youngest and trying to remain sane amidst the lives entrusted to her. Outside the home, she is involved in the Charismatic Renewal. Having a high school reversion back to the faith, she enjoys speaking at retreats and conferences nationwide. With a master’s degree in catechesis and evangelization, she has a heart for the new evangelization as she ministers. Her three favorite things to do are: take walks, showers and take-out.

Please send comments to nolacatholicparenting@clarionherald.org. Visit the blog featuring three new posts a week at www.nolacatholicparenting.org.

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