Last year was my first experience with Lent. Yes, I’ve heard of it for years and knew that people gave things up, but I never really understood the meaning behind it.
We walked through Lent together as a church community for the first time and it was really powerful. I learned so much about this tradition that people have been practicing for years, yet I was completely unaware of.
If you are not familiar with the meaning behind Lent, there is a great post about it by one of our pastors, Ben Thomas. You can find it here. Basically, Lent is an opportunity to be stripped bare and look in the mirror. To stop medicating ourselves and covering up what’s really going on inside. It’s the opportunity to slow down and truly become aware.
For me, Lent was a way to prepare for Easter in a new and refreshing way. I was going through a major career and life transition, so it took on additional meaning for me at that time.
One of my favorite quotes about Lent is from Ronald Rolheiser.
Wow. “Stop eating whatever protects us from having to face the desert that is inside of us…..” Ouch! My career transition and the changes I was making were forcing me to face the desert inside of me. And I was pretty amazed at what I saw.
I saw a disconnected, fragmented life. There wasn’t anything horrible. But there were areas that needed work. There were things I needed to address in order to help me move towards wholeness. It provided an awareness that has led to significant changes and working on myself.
There’s a great Lent devotional book by Richard Rohr called Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent. It includes brief daily readings and scriptures and prayer. It is a really powerful tool. I highly recommend you pick it up.
Our pastors also talk about having two options at Lent. One is to give something up (chocolate, alcohol, gossip, etc.) or another option is to add something in (meditation, contemplative practices, prayer, etc.) I love that idea. It isn’t always about giving something up. It’s also sometimes about taking time to slow down enough to realize what is happening and to add a good practice into your daily routine.
My pastor, Scott Hodge, wrote this powerful prayer that I continue to pray.
Learning to hold lightly and release quickly is something I am continuing to work on. It changes your entire perspective and can really impact how you live your life.
Tonight, we will have our second Ash Wednesday service. We will have interactive family activities and spread ashes. It was absolutely beautiful last year, and I am looking forward to taking time to slow down and set the tone for the upcoming season of Lent.
How do you slow down and experience Lent in your own life? Share in the comments below.