Lent: Learning to Throw a Change-Up to Keep the Enemy Off-Balance

baseball pitcher

The beginning of Lent often coincides with the beginning of spring training and the reporting of pitchers and catchers, so I can’t help but dip into my bag of sports metaphors to talk about Lent.

Lent is an opportunity to step back from ordinary activities and to make some shifts in our approach to life in order to keep “the enemy” off-balance and to deepen our connection with God. It’s the spiritual equivalent of throwing a change-up. For those of you who don’t know what a change-up is, it is an off-speed pitch that a pitcher throws to put the batter off-balance. The pitcher uses the same arm motion as when throwing a fastball; however, because of a different grip of the ball, (a “microshift,” so to speak), the pitch will travel slower than the fastball, thus fooling the hitter.

During Lent, most of us will continue to use the same “arm motion,” meaning that we will still be going through our day-to-day activities and responsibilities. However, we can “change speeds,” meaning that we can and should change up our lives to throw the adversary off-balance!

Think about it. When you go on retreat, you physically go to a different location that is away from the ordinary pattern of life. You eat, sleep, pray, and interact in a different setting and live according to a different schedule. My recommendation is that we approach Lent as a 40-day retreat. Change things up. Make these 40 days a retreat by integrating a variety of change-ups or microshifts into your daily routine, because changing your routine literally changes the way you think, and that’s what Lent is all about! Here are some suggestions:

  • Wake up at a different time, even if it’s only 10 minutes earlier or later.
  • Eat something different for breakfast.
  • Eat your breakfast in a different room.
  • Turn off the TV/radio/phone, or listen to a completely different variety of music that is more reflective (classical, instrumental, etc.).
  • Take a different route to work.
  • Add a few extra blocks of walking to your work commute.
  • Do your tasks in a different order.
  • Rearrange your work space, or work in a different location if possible, even if it’s for a short time (e.g. work from a laptop in the company lunchroom/lounge away from your desk for an hour).
  • Clean out files, drawers, closets, the garage, and the basement—anything that will make room for new energy.
  • Change the speed with which you walk and talk. Slow down just a tad, and speak a little slower and more quietly.
  • Integrate a new segment into your day: a walk around the block, quiet reading, a trip to the health club, a 3-Minute Retreat, etc.

Of course, the guiding principles during Lent for altering our routine are the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Once you’ve broken up your daily routine, you’ll be better predisposed to take on the three disciplines of Lent.

What suggestions do you have for breaking up the daily routine?

P.S. Be sure to look at my popular 40 Ideas for 40 Days of Lent as well as all of these other great Lenten resources.

About Joe Paprocki 2741 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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