A week from today is Ash Wednesday.
Every year the beginning of the Lent season takes me by surprise. Pretty much, this is me:
Fortunately this year I am more ahead of the curve than I have been in the past, even if it is only by a week.
I find the church calendar to be really grounding for me. When left to my own devices, life often plows me over. Do you ever feel that way? Unless something or someone stops you, weeks can pass without intention or reflection. For me, one of those “stopping things” is the seasons of the church. They remind me to take some time and remember the bigger picture.
Lent in particular (for anyone who may be unfamiliar, Lent is the forty-day season of the church year that leads up to and prepares for Easter) gently reminds me to consider my sin, consider the things that may be stealing my joy and getting in the way of relationship with the Lord. It encourages me to dwell on the sacrifice of Jesus, and nudges me to sacrifice as well.
On Ash Wednesday when a person goes to receive ashes they are told “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” With that in mind I will spend some time considering the mist that is life. I will really dwell on the foolishness of letting the cares of this world take precedence over the relationship with the One whom I will spend eternity. I will get specific about habits and mindsets that take up the space that should be given to that relationship. I will weep for the time wasted.
Then for 40 days I will seek to remove some of those habits by fasting or practicing new habits that make room for God to change me.
A friend of mine put it perfectly, “The point isn’t to take on this extra religious baggage or withhold something just so I can pick it up again after 40 days, the point is to make the space to be in his presence and to be transformed to look more like Jesus than I did when the season began.”
So where can you make space? Perhaps there is something you can fast from, maybe social media, maybe TV, maybe blog reading (but not mine of course ). Or maybe there is a discipline you can practice, waking up early or staying up late to pray, actively practicing Sabbath, regularly volunteering. (there are some great ideas here, here, here, and here) But like Tim said, it is not about the act itself, but the space it creates. So perhaps it would be helpful to start backwards. Where are some areas where God needs more space? Are there any places you find you are pushing him out?
For me, I don’t give God the space to be my comforter. Instead I distract myself from my emotions. There are many ways I do this, but chief among them is suffocating feelings with food. So, I intend to spend the next 40 days cutting out snacks and removing distractions at mealtime. The hope is that the times I would normally snack would be spent enjoying God, and in the moments where I want to run to food, I would run to prayer instead.
Do you have plans to participate in Lent this year? I would love to pray alongside you. Would you pray for me as well?