This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which begins my favorite season of the year: Lent. Since I’m not an integral member of any liturgical church community at the moment, I just found a local church that had mid-day services and went there.
There is something about the imposition of the ashes that really helps me tap down into the purpose of Lent. Here is my self-portrait that I call “In the car with ashes”:
Ashes we are, and to ashes we shall return. I love that the early church knew it was a good idea to set a portion of the year – especially before Easter – for drawing intentionally nearer to God. Obviously, this is something that we get to/should be doing year-round, but it is helpful to have a set amount of days where this is the communal intent. I need these forty days each year.
Some years, I’ve felt called to let God work on a particular spiritual issue. For example, there was one year where I fasted from gossiping. You can ask my best friend – sometimes our conversations were kinda short that Lent. I have a lot of crap to talk about people, apparently. Other years, I’ve felt pulled to spend more time in worship, or more time just sitting around thinking about Jesus. Each year, when I reach the end of Lent, I’m left with at least one insight into myself and God.
It always bums me out when I meet kids or adults who ask each other, “what are you giving up for Lent?” Lent is not about “giving up.” It is about “going in” – in the sense of going deeper into who God is, and who it is that Jesus sees you can be. Fasting can be an awesome spiritual aid, but giving up chocolate or soda – well – I have yet to hear anyone tell me about how much that shaped them spiritually during Lent.
This year, I feel like the Holy Spirit gave me a word in worship on Sunday about my Lenten journey this year. We were singing Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” (how awesome is that song!), and when we got to the line, “Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours/every single breath,” I nearly fell down. I have lived in that place – where I’m aware that all I have and am belongs to God. I have lost some of that intentionality and awareness. I’ve gotten a little sloppy about my dedication to God’s kingdom over the past years of changes and disappointments. I’ve become more comfortable and more adept at distracting and entertaining myself instead of soaking myself in the Word, worship and prayer. I need to make my way back to that place – for my own spiritual sanity and joy.
So this year, to bless myself and hopefully God’s heart, I’m going to dedicate this Lent to finding my intentionality again. This means cutting down on entertaining and distracting myself. So, I’m going to stay away from the TiVo for forty days, and also bring back a daily practice of reading the Bible. I love it so much when I do it – but I forget to do it nevertheless.
If you practice Lent – have an awesome one – and if you don’t – hey! Give it a try!