Some time after these events, God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Ready!” he replied.
~ Genesis 22:1
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
After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, He prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”
~ Luke 22:41-42
I have, over the years, given up many different things for Lent. During my time in school, I always tried to find the right thing to give up. I would search for something that I would be reminded of daily, but that also wasn’t “too hard”. Sometimes I cheaped out and gave up chocolate, which really just meant that my roommate/boyfriend had to deal with my “unmedicated” PMS at least once during Lent. Sometimes I picked something “too big” and didn’t have the perseverance to complete the task at hand. Sometimes I picked something big and made it, like the year I looked at my 2 20-oz. sodas-a-day habit and decided to give up caffeine. After two weeks of headaches, I’ve never EVER gone back.
One year at Notre Dame, I thought I’d found exactly the right thing to give up. Elevators. I lived on the third floor of Farley, so I would have to take two flights of stairs daily, which I considered to be reasonable but not excessive, a reminder of my sacrifice without, for instance, making me late to class. I wasn’t in particularly good shape and those two flights of stairs used to wind me (I cringe to remember). I would also have to take the two flights of stairs to the third floor of CoMo for choir and a flight to the second floor of Fitzpatrick for a couple classes. This was perfect, and I was very proud of myself for thinking of it.
I take this moment to remember something I’ve become better acquainted with since that time: Jesus didn’t get to pick His sacrifice. Neither did Mary. Neither did Abraham when God came to him and he replied “Ready” before even hearing what would be asked of him. Every year, we pick something to sacrifice, to help us join Jesus in his suffering in the desert, to feel the loss Mary felt when she had to watch her son die on the cross, to atone and repent for our sinfulness in eager anticipation of our salvation at Easter.
During that Lent, I was helping to organize my choir’s first SChoiR. This meant a variety of phone calls and meetings with various groups around campus to arrange for a location, music, food, etc. Well, it just so happens that Catering By Design, for those who never had a reason to visit, is located on the sixth floor of Grace Hall. I set up the meeting with a little prayer that was half “really?” and half “thy will be done”. God, in His infinite wisdom, had upped the ante on my Lenten sacrifice.
God tests us, not just during Lent. Sometimes we recognize the test, either at the time or later, and sometimes we are unaware. But we endeavor every day to pass God’s tests with flying colors, be that test an illness in the family or a few extra flights of stairs.
The day of the meeting, I was walking to Grace Hall with another member of my choir who was going to the meeting with me. She and I knew each other from choir, but weren’t close friends. I explained to her on the way that I had given up the elevator for Lent and would have to climb the stairs and I suggested that she take the elevator and just wait for me at the top. She turned me down immediately and insisted that she would join me in the stairwell. I personally think she took it slowly for me, and I arrived at the sixth floor completely winded, but I was incredibly grateful for the company and support.
God tests us. But He wants us to succeed in every possible way. And every once in a while, He sends us an angel to help us through. His help could be a person holding your hand through your trial or a much-needed distraction just before you break down and go get a bowl of ice cream in the middle of a fasting day.
So today we begin our Lenten sacrifices. We fast, we abstain, we give things up. We find something that we can manage, that will remind us regularly of our committment but that won’t interfere too much with our lives.
Just remember, at any time, God could up the ante.