Happy Ash Wednesday!
Happy Ash Wednesday! I mean, Happy Second Week of Lent!
I remember last year saying that we were experiencing the longest and largest Lent ever. I didn’t even think that it would last this long, did you?
As I begin this Lent a little battered and bruised from the winter storm that crippled Texas, I am reminded, in a very physical way, that we are called to several things in this season.
First, it is never too late to start.
This post was supposed to go out a week ago, with a little different focus, but there was no power or internet to make it happen, and no time to make the changes. Instead, it will go out today, and the thoughts within are still valid and may even be just the thing you needed to get started or to recenter your practices. If I’m not too late, you’re not too late.
Second, it’s all about perspective.
As we give things up and do without, we realize how much we have and how much we really need. We see how much God provides and how much we have to give. We learn to trust in God, because that’s about all we’ve got.
Third, this suffering and lack is not our goal.
Lent is so much more than giving up chocolate and coffee. It is a time to prepare ourselves for the miracle of Easter. We are about to stand at the empty tomb, greeting the person who gave His life to set us free from sin and open the doors to heaven. I don’t want to just glance up from my phone with a quick nod, I want to be completely present in the moment and washed with the grace and forgiveness that comes with it.
So, how are we going to do Lent this year?
I think it helps to think about Lent as a time to raise our eyes from the world and focus them on the Kingdom. It’s a time to remember our purpose and our calling, and remember that we only do them well when we do them with Jesus. It’s a time to lay down the burdens we have collected along the way and allow Jesus to transform them in us and through us.
The traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are designed to focus us on the gifts that we have been given and prepare us for the greatest gift that is about to come.
When we fast, we aren’t showing how many things we can give up, we are discovering how the experience of lack can help us to see the abundance that we are given. We are doing without so others don’t have to. There are a million ways that our fasting turns our hearts and our eyes to something other than ourselves.
Almsgiving does the same thing. When we give of our excess, we don’t give much. It’s when we give of our love that things begin to change. St. Teresa of Calcutta once told a rich woman who wore very expensive saris to buy saris that were half as expensive and use the money that she saved to buy saris for the poor. The woman didn’t give her extra money to an organization. She gave up something important to her, gave something important to people who needed it, and it filled her with the joy that comes from serving Jesus.
Prayer should be a part of our daily lives, but somehow it slips away from us time and time again. Lent is a beautiful time to refresh our practices once again. We can pray for a purpose like “those who are struggling with infertility,” or “peace in the world.” We can pray for specific people in our lives, picking someone to pray for each day. We can simply sit with Jesus and listen to the words that come into our hearts. We can change it up each week. The possibilities are endless!
Each week I’ll be posting challenges on my social media that are focused on one of these practices, starting Monday with prayer. If there is anything that I learned from this last week of power outages, bursting pipes, low water pressure, and boil orders, it’s that we need a lot of tools in our belt in order to meet the needs of any given day. We’re going to wait a bit on the fasting thing. We did that last week.
This Lent, I’d love to hear what you are doing. How do you want to prepare? How will you get ready? This may very well be a continuation of the longest Lent ever, but Easter has come and Easter will come again. That we know for sure.
If you would like a little something to help you prepare to experience Easter in a more powerful and personal way this year, don’t forget to order my book Walking Through Holy Week, available on Amazon and through my website. Have a blessed Lent!