Billy Martin’s Story: Giving Up Something for Lent

“We give up something for Lent
to make room for God
to do something new in our lives”

Many of us are in the habit of giving something up for Lent.  Sometimes it’s a food, like chocolate or eating meat on Fridays; sometimes it’s a bad habit, like smoking or drinking; and sometime it’s something that consumes a lot of our time, like Facebook or watching TV.  Ideally our renunciation has a higher purpose than mere self-denial and self-discipline. We give something up in order to make room for God to do something new in our lives.  When we clear out the clutter in our soul, God has a way of growing our faith.

Let me tell you about Billy Martin. (No, not that Billy Martin, the famous NY Yankees coach. My Billy is just a regular guy who shared his name with someone famous.)

Billy is a big sports fan.  He played sports when he was in high school and college. He coaches a high school wrestling team that has sent several wrestlers to the state championship.  He loves to watch sports on TV—especially the NY Yankees, a passion that he shares with his son.

Many years ago when his son was about 10, he decided to give up watching sports for Lent.  Of course, that meant that he wouldn’t be able to watch “March Madness,” but, as a devout Catholic, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. He figured he’d use the extra time to pray and attend weekly Lenten services at his church. 

All went well, until the day of the Yankees home opener.  For years, he and his son had watched this game together.  So when his son turned on the TV and said, “Dad, let’s watch the Yankees,” Billy wasn’t sure how to respond.

There was a long pause as Billy tried to think things through.  Finally, he said, “Son, I promised God that I wouldn’t watch sports during Lent and I really want to keep my promise.”

“However,” he continued, “I didn’t promise God I wouldn’t listen to sports, so I tell you what: You turn on the TV and watch the game.  I will sit beside the TV, where I can’t see the screen, and I will watch you watching the game.  That way I can keep my promise and we can share this time together.”

And that is what they did.  For the next 2 ½ hours Billy watched his son watching the Yankees.

Billy later told me, “That afternoon was one of the highlights of my life.  As I watched him, I saw my son in a new and deeper way.  I never realized how deeply I loved him and how grateful I was to have him. Had I not given up watching sports for Lent I would never have had that experience.”

Because Billy kept his promise, God blessed him, enlarging not only his heart, but also his faith.

What surprises might God have in store for you this Lent?

© February 15, 2014 by Rev. Michael A. Weber.
For permission to reprint please contact the author at

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