I appreciate Lent and the Church calendar. In our chaotic, scattered, unrelenting activity and noise of our days, they invite us to intentionally mark our days in mindful ways that would go unnoticed otherwise or be consumed by busyness. It’s easy for a year to go by without any significant spiritual markers that you can identify. Everything just seems to run together. Life becomes less profound, more forgetful, and emptied of the sacred.
They invite us to intentionally mark our days in mindful ways that would go unnoticed otherwise or be consumed by busyness
Lent has been known as the season when Christians are “give up” something, which is certainly an important component of Lent. Without a proper understanding of Lent, however, the practices of Lent (and any other important ritual or expression) can become rote (falling into religious practice for the sake of religious practice detached from meaning), superficial, vogue, or legalistic (which always is empty and exhausting). Goodness knows we all need something more real and life-giving than more empty religion.
“Giving something up” in Lent is never an end in itself. Otherwise, we make it about us. Again. Lent and its practices like repentance and confession, self-examination, prayer, and generosity (like all the spiritual practices), ultimately serve to train our hearts to humbly surrender our hearts and lives to God and to love others. Mostly, the practices create the space or a disruptive rhythm we desperately need to make room for something different; something we need to know, or do, or experience…something more life-giving than all of the randomness of our days.
Mostly, the practices create the space or a disruptive rhythm we desperately need to make room for something different.
We set aside one thing, like distractions, cell phones, a packed schedule, Netflix (don’t hate me), pride, isolation, negativity, or a meal so another thing can come alive.
For example, Author Mark Buchanan notes in his book, The Holy Wild, noted, “Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.” They also don’t come alive in excessiveness and preoccupation.
In all four gospels, Jesus similarly admonished, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). This saving is not just in an eternal way, but as a present reality; in a right-now-aliveness kind of way. May Lent be a faithful guide to help you discover whatever may be keeping from this kind of abundance found only in Jesus.
Find a quiet space for a few minutes. (Really.) Ask yourself,
“What in me needs to come alive?”
“What do I need to set aside to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to abundance?”
If you don’t know, linger a while. Allow your soul to catch up with the rest of you. Listen for God’s whispers. Be open. Say yes.