Michelle Martin

Making space

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

We moved one of the couches in the living room over the weekend.

The two-seater went from one side of the room to the other, taking up a position under the windows, making room for an easy chair. Once upon a time, years ago, the couch used to be under the windows, at least when the Christmas tree wasn’t up.

Teresa doesn’t remember that. She doesn’t remember the easy chair, which used to belong to her Papa. To her mind, this arrangement is brand-new. And she doesn’t like it.

Sure, it opens up the passage between the living room and dining room and makes the whole space look bigger. But she says it’s a problem, because it’s not easy to watch TV from the little couch’s new position. You have to really turn your head from one end. But the problem, I think, is that it’s different from the way it was for her whole childhood — at least her childhood as she remembers it.

The change is coming on top of a lot of changes: Frank went away to college, leaving her the only child at home; we redecorated her bedroom and got her a new bed for her birthday. Change, even expected change, even change we’ve asked for, can be hard, because it always means leaving the past behind. There’s always something you have to let go of, something that has to make way for whatever is coming in, whether a new easy chair or a new college career.

Getting something new always means giving something up.

That’s something to ponder as we start Lent on Ash Wednesday. Each year, many Catholics make a practice of giving something up for Lent. For some, it’s something material, often a food they like: chocolate, or sweets in general, or even coffee. Some of them take the money they save and try to do more good with their sacrifice by giving it to the poor.

Others try to give up bad habits, from smoking to social media to gossip.

That’s all well and good, but Lent is not a season set aside for self-improvement, no matter how good it is for us to quit smoking and adopt a healthier diet.

It’s a season of atonement and preparation, a season in which we prepare ourselves to accept that Jesus died and rose again, and did so to save us.

The church tells us to prepare with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Doing so will help us make room for the reality of salvation, which is wonderful, but not always easy to accept.

So this Lent, take time to rearrange your spiritual furniture. Look at things from a new perspective, and let go of what you need to embrace the joy of Easter.



  • lent
  • family life