I can remember feeling the weight being lifted from my shoulders as I turned in my last final and headed for home. Next stop: three glorious weeks of watching hours of Christmas specials and hanging out with my friends and family. No homework, no commitments to anything school-related at all. What a wonderful thing!
However, as I was packing up my things to go home, I felt like I was forgetting something. I made circles through my apartment, trying to locate what I might have accidentally left behind. After three sweeps, I made up my mind that it wasn’t that important. I grabbed my duffel bag off my bed —
And that’s when I saw it: my Bible, sitting alone on my nightstand.
My discipler and I had made an Advent/Christmas calendar of Lectio Divina that we were going to follow to prepare for the birth of our Lord. 20 minutes, every day, in my room or a chapel. I had been doing great so far, and I was really enjoying getting to know Jesus better through the Word. But we had Bibles at home; I didn’t really need to drag another book home, right?
I put my bag over my shoulder and shut the door as I exited my room.
I’d like to tell you how I went home and pulled my other Bible off my bookshelf, sticking with my reading plan. I’d like to brag about how I invited my friends to come to the chapel with me or how I asked my family if they wanted to join me in learning about the child Jesus. I’d like to share that, even though I didn’t read the Word every day, I had at least talked to Jesus for a bit anyway.
But I can’t say those things.
Three weeks went by, and I never spoke a word to our Lord.
Unfortunately, as great as it is to be home from school, there’s also a great temptation for us as followers of Christ. Talk to a missionary; I’m sure they’ve been tempted to stay in their nice warm bed instead of driving 20 minutes to 8 a.m. Mass on a snowy morning. We convince ourselves that Jesus will understand if we take a break from our personal relationship with Him.
When you commit yourself to a life of prayer, the evil one trusts no one but himself to tempt you. And like Jesus, the devil never takes a day off. So why should we make it easy for him to win us over with Christmas movies, cookies and our nice warm beds?
Here are some tips for making and sticking to your Christmas Break goals!
1. Make a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Specific: Instead of just saying I’m going to pray the rosary three times a week, be specific! I’m going to pray the Rosary on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday!
Measurable: How much? How many? How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal? You can easily measure if you pray the rosary on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, right? If you miss the rosary on Tuesday, you’ll know!
Attainable: Make goals that will stretch your ability — but not ones that are impossible! Instead of trying to memorizing all the mysteries of the rosary, focus on one, like the Joyful!
Realistic: Know yourself. Don’t try to reach too high to impress anyone. This is for you and your personal relationship with Christ. If the adoration chapel is 30 minutes away and you don’t have a car, it’s unlikely that you’ll get to go there every day. If you don’t think you can pray the whole rosary, that’s okay! Be honest with yourself. Praying a decade of the rosary works too!
Time-Driven: This one is simple: Make your goal finish at the end of Christmas Break! That way you can see how much you have accomplished!
2. Have an accountability partner.
This could be your disicipler or a friend from home! Schedule a time you want to check in and stick to it. If you say you’re going to check in on Wednesday at noon, do it! Be honest about your failures and your achievements. We want to help each other grow — and by being honest, we can easily assess how to help one another achieve our goals. And it’s good practice for being a follower of Christ once we have graduated! Breaks are our first glimpse of being away from a faith community.
3. Ask your guardian angel for the grace to do it!
Guardian angels are awesome! As my chaplain always tells students who are trying to commit to a habit of Morning Prayer, “Ask your guardian angel for the grace to get out of bed in the morning” — and it works. Our guardian angels can do amazing things for us when it comes to our prayer lives. All we have to do is ask!
Saints aren’t made by those who never fail; they are made by those who fail and get back up. Just because we mess up one day doesn’t mean our whole Christmas Break is ruined! We have the chance every day to say “yes” to Jesus as He calls us into mission. Just because we responded poorly yesterday doesn’t mean our chances are already ruined today! Be free to fail! Be resilient! Be bold!