Our Lenten intention and motivation


By Sam Aitchison
The Church is Alive!


From early September to late November each year, communities across Eastern Iowa gather at local high schools for the beloved tradition of “Friday Night Lights” high school football. My memories of those days are nothing short of amazing. There is something special, a sense of camaraderie from banding together, working with and knowing your buddy has your back on the field. I am thankful for the memories cultivated during my high school football days and the traits of hard work and being goal-oriented that football instilled in me, qualities I believe resonate with many others who have shared similar experiences.

Having grown up as an athlete, my mind still thinks in a goal-oriented way and hard work is a trait I try to embody. As we approach the second Sunday of Lent, I’ve been reflecting on what differentiates the Lenten practices we undertake from the goals we set or the New Year’s resolutions we make.

I’ve often pondered this distinction. Isn’t Lent simply another opportunity for self-improvement? Aren’t acts of prayer, kindness or self-denial similar to pursuing goals to be healthier or more patient? Can’t we achieve personal growth through secular means, ultimately aspiring to be better individuals for the benefit of others?


Although goals and resolutions are good things and can definitely be a vehicle towards being holier versions of ourselves, I think the Lenten difference lies in our intention and motivation. Our faith inspires us to foster community as well as a personal encounter with Christ and a constant seeking of him. Secular resolutions and goals often revolve around self-improvement or altruism. The Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving focus on glorifying God at all times and loving God and neighbor as ourselves in everything that we do. These are our ultimate goals as people of faith.

I can’t help but smile as I recall Friday Night Lights and I’m so thankful for the lessons, traits and values instilled in me through those years. But as I continue on the Lenten journey, I’m going to try to orient my Lenten practices and goals fully towards Christ — remembering that I have the privilege to love and serve him.

In what ways can we intentionally set our practices throughout this season of Lent? How might the things we give up or add into our lives truly bring us closer to Christ so that we focus on serving God and others and not ourselves?

(Sam Aitchison is a sophomore at Saint Louis University. Contact him at samaitchison6@gmail.com)

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