My husband Greg proclaimed recently, “This is the Lentiest Lent I ever Lented!” And I had to agree.
I started this Lent debating what little everyday luxuries I would give up. “Is it enough for me to give up chocolate and other desserts?” I asked myself. These calorie-laden treats seemed to make my often-stressful days at the office a little more pleasant, despite their impacts to my waistline.
Also, I see co-workers often stroll to the cafeteria, returning with frothy, sugar-laden gourmet coffee drinks, which I also find very tempting and a delicious relief from work stress.
It was after a suggestion by a friend that I settled upon giving up one article of clothing per day, and by Easter Sunday, I’ll have amassed 40 articles of clothing, which I can then donate to charity.
The first week was easy as pie! We all have pieces of clothing in our drawers and closets that are faded from wear, or that we just know don’t fit us properly anymore. Yet we find one reason or another to procrastinate removing these articles from our wardrobes.
During the second week, the cuts became more difficult, as I had removed all the easy picks. I had to be more discerning in my selections.
By the third week, this sacrifice hit me closer to home. I found myself debating amongst clothing I had purchased years ago in hopes of being considered a fashionable person, but now seem less than modest and somewhat ostentatious in my pursuit of living a more devoutly Catholic life.
Yet the purge has been a time of growth for me. It’s made me question what I really need to live a content and humble Christian life, one which uses my resources efficiently and makes God — not self — the center of my life.
My clothing obsession started early in my life. My mother, a former Philadelphia model, was often described by people, including my proud father, as “a fashion plate.” She and I spent many Saturday afternoons shopping at department stores like John Wanamaker, Strawbridge’s and B. Altman, to name a few of our favorite haunts.
We only stopped for noontime lunches in the elegant restaurants on the upper store level. After refueling on chicken salad stuffed tomatoes, we took the escalator downstairs to finish the battle.
Shopping was like our Olympic sport, always in search of the perfectly matched outfit and accessories.
Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of our realities have executed a sharp 180-degree turn, much like I executed on the football field during high school band half-time performances.
All of us are now home, only rarely venturing out to the grocery store armed with face masks and plastic gloves. We used to unthinkingly stroll by shelves filled with toilet paper and paper towels, only to find those same store shelves are now empty. Some of us would virtuously skip the rows of canned vegetables, in favor of fresh produce.
Now, we feel comfort knowing the kitchen cupboards are stocked with canned vegetables in case our supermarket supply chains are interrupted due to the pandemic.
Instead of considering the latest trend in exercise regimes to look better in a swimsuit this summer, I’m happy to have food. I’m not overly concerned with reading labels, as I used to be, just happy to have three meals on the table daily.
Instead of racing from commitment to commitment, I’m feeling happy to spend more time at home with Greg and our dogs. Greg and I feel fortunate to have jobs that we can perform from home.
I pray for those who we depend upon to continue working during this pandemic and those who have lost their jobs and incomes. And then there are parents who are educating their children due to closed schools, in addition to their other responsibilities.
Also, during this pandemic, my once fashionable mother now lies in a hospital bed. She recently fell in her home and fractured her left hip. She previously fell at home in 2015, and spent six weeks in the hospital, four of which were in a rehab facility.
I have concern knowing that my mother is a member of the high-risk group for coronavirus. I wish she was safe and warm at home, relaxing in her recliner with the blanket I gave her for Christmas resting on her lap. At barely over 100 pounds, my mother seems more like a baby bird who’s fallen from its nest than the glamorous model who appeared in fashion shows, and even once had her hair dyed green for a photo session.
As I stare at the piles of outcast clothes lying on my closet floor, I think of my mom lying in a hospital bed, where I can’t visit her and cheer her up by reminiscing about our Saturday excursions, and sharing with her the latest happenings from my life. Even the most boring, pedestrian stories from my days hold my mother in raptured interest!
And then I realize, this agony is my cross to bear this Lent. It was never about clothing, or chocolate, or fancy coffee drinks. It was about the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross for my salvation, my mom’s salvation, and everyone’s salvation.
Despite my grief, I feel grateful that Jesus loves me so much as to entrust me with helping to carry his cross with him this Lenten season. Amen!
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