Lent is one of our favourite seasons in the Church calendar; for a decent period (but not an interminable one), we get to do a bit of spiritual spring cleaning. It’s the perfect prompt to give the boot to bad habits and pick up better ones. And it comes with some spiritual superpower assistance.
Here are three quick ways to give your marriage a Lenten make-over based on three traditional practices – fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
1: Fast… from criticism
You might not get fat from criticism, but take our word for it, a steady diet of the stuff is just as bad for your health! It’s toxic for your relationships.
Some habitual criticizers think they have a moral obligation to shape up their spouse (and their kids, and everyone else in their life). It’s surely one of the fastest ways to sour a friendship and poison a marriage.
Fasting from criticism isn’t just good for our marriage, it’s also good for us. Believe it or not, it’s actually liberating! When we surrender our right (or our need) to criticise, we stop looking for someone to blame. Thus when things go wrong we’re more likely to approach it coolly and less likely to get uptight about who’s at fault. We can calmly look for solutions, laugh at the mishap, and find the blessing in the mess. We relax and enjoy life more …and so does our spouse!
2: Pray… for your spouse daily
Prayer has always been a fundamental part of our Lenten practices. Most people opt for traditional expressions like the Rosary, Daily Mass, Stations of the Cross or, popular this year – The Divine Mercy chaplet.
But what about praying daily for your spouse? You could renew your vows before God, pray for his intentions, or earnestly pray blessing and protection over her as she goes about her day. Pray to be a better spouse, that God might transform you into a more effective messenger of his love.
3: Give… without expecting a return
Almsgiving is the third Lenten obligation. When we give to a charity, we don’t expect a kick back – it’s a gift not a trade. Similarly, our wedding vows call us to approach our marriage in the spirit of self-giving service. Yet for many of us, there is an unspoken expectation of payment of ‘quid pro quo’ when we give to our spouse – at the very least, we expect gratitude!
As a spiritual discipline this Lent, once a week give something to your spouse without expectation of pay back. Do something nice for your spouse, something he would value or she would appreciate. And do it graciously, even in secret if possible.
There you have it: three ways to do Lent with a marriage twist! And by the way, don’t let the non-participation of your spouse be an excuse – these Lenten tasks can be done by any husband or wife on their own initiative.