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A Season of Self-Forgetting

Cheese. It’s my weakness. My Kryptonite. My Achilles heel.

Two years ago, I decided to give it up for Lent. Abstaining is supposed to be difficult, right?

I told people of my goal, mostly so I’d go through with it. Friends looked frightened. Even my doctor, who I happened to see the day before Ash Wednesday, said, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” (I was hoping for more support considering the health benefits of my choice. He does, however, get points for knowing me.)

So I went for it. I was all in. Until Day 2, when I realized how optimistic I’d been. Yes, we abstain as a demonstration of penance, to prepare our hearts for Easter and I was feelin’ it. But then the doubt rushed in.

I could have switched gears. Picked something else to give up. Like soda. Or fast food. Most people wouldn’t have known I’d failed the cheese challenge. My friends and family may have silently cheered.

But in the end, I stuck with it and succeeded. Sure, everyone around me was miserable but, darn it, I’d made a commitment. I was sure God was incredibly proud of my efforts. And I vowed never to attempt that again. Ever. I mean, I’m not crazy.

Fast-forward a year. In my Faith Formation class the Sunday morning before Ash Wednesday, my second-graders and I talked about praying. And almsgiving. And fasting and abstaining. I told them my plans for the coming season, shared how abstaining is supposed to be difficult and how I’d decided to give up sugar in my coffee for 40 days.

And I shared my cheese story. And they laughed. And said how funny they thought my friends and family were the year before.

Then one student said with a serious tone, “But if it’s supposed to be hard, and you love cheese, maybe you should do it again.” Silence. Twelve sets of eyes staring at me. More silence. I started to sweat. And, suddenly… excited clapping, followed by a chant. “Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!”

I know when I’m beat.

With that student’s powerful question still ringing in my head, I did it again. And I made a conscious effort the second time around to think about Jesus in those moments when I Just Wanted The Cheese. (And friends, that was often.) It was one of the best Lenten lessons I’ve experienced. It provided an opportunity to continually remind myself that giving something up is not about me, but about Our Savior. It’s not about my own suffering, but about His. And each time, I grew in my faith and grew closer to God.

I made a conscious effort the second time around to think about Jesus in those moments when I Just Wanted The Cheese. (And friends, that was often.) Click To Tweet

A friend recently captured this perfectly: Remember to give up the things that draw you away from God, or interfere with you drawing closer to Him. This is not a season of self-help; it is a season of self-forgetting.

Give up the things that draw you away from God, or interfere with you drawing closer to Him. This is not a season of self-help; it is a season of self-forgetting. Click To Tweet

Self-forgetting. Yes! Why has it has taken me so long to internalize that? I’m taking this revelation and doing my very best to stay focused, to better honor His sacrifice and fully appreciate how it saved us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Here’s to a season of successful self-forgetting.

Karin Christensen

Karin Gaffney Christensen lives in Upstate New York with her husband, their three children, and a White German Shepherd. A cradle Catholic, Karin has been re-energized by her faith in her roles as wife, mother, and catechist for her parish’s second-graders. Despite the chaos often present in her busy life, she is determined to keep God front and center, and to help her family continue to grow in the Catholic faith.

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