For the past several years I’ve tried to make the season of Lent something more practical and transformational. And I’ve encouraged our church to do the same. Why?
Here are three great reasons worth considering this:
- GOD: God will show up in unexpected ways. If you’ve had a desire to “hear” from God, or to get direction, wisdom, insight, etc., Lent is a great way to open up that communication channel. It’s a way to create opportunities for God to connect with you.
- SELF: Our traditions and habits are a powerful influence in the people we become. Just like celebrating Thanksgiving helps us develop gratitude, and regular exercise influences multiple areas of our mind and body, so Lent habits influence us at the core of our humanity. We gain understanding of our desires and appetites, and learn that they no longer have to control us.
- OTHERS: Experiencing voluntary, temporary deprivation/discomfort helps you relate to those who experience it permanently without their consent. For example, our missions teams often come back with a permanently altered view of the world and deeper compassion for those who live without the things we take for granted (like healthcare, insurance, transportation, education, representative government, etc.) In short, you become more Christlike…more truly human.
Typically, Lent is observed for 40 days from Ash Wednesday (which is February 18th this year) until the Saturday before Easter (April 4th). Sundays are not included, and provide an opportunity to celebrate, rejoice, and look forward to Easter.
The options of how to practice this are limitless. They fall into two basic categories:
- Things to remove from your life during Lent, like:
- One or more meals each week (fasting)
- Television (although March Madness fans rarely give this a second thought)
- Profanity (always recommended)
- Gossip (ditto)
- Driving over the speed limit
- Meat (or red meat)
- Junk food (and/or soft drinks)
- Shopping for non-essentials
- Starbucks, or coffee in general (yes apparently that’s possible)
- Cell phone use in the car
- Things to add to your life during Lent, like…
- Bible reading (e.g. read all four gospels during Lent)
- Generosity, like tipping an additional 10%
- Rising 30 minutes earlier to pray (it helps to change bedtimes, too)
- Compliment someone(s) each day
- Journal your experiences with God
- Serve someone in need every day/week
- Pray with your spouse/family regularly
- Schedule times of solitude/silence (could be an hour or two each week)
- Listen to music that purposefully praises God
- Exercise regularly (assuming that’s not your current habit)
- Rest more, including a genuine Sabbath day
So use this list to spur your imagination. Spend some time thinking and praying. How would you like to use the season of Lent this year? Feel free to share your ideas and decisions in the comment space below.