By now, many Christians are full-swing into Lent. They’ve chosen which vice they can live without for 46 days, they’ve marked their forehead with ashes, remembering that they are made of dust, and they may have even buried the Alleluia. But like a woman on a detox of maple syrup, lemon, and cayenne pepper, withdrawal is about to set in — if it hasn’t already — and the tough questions are about to hit impact.
“Why did I give up (choice item) again?”
“Am I just persisting in works righteousness?”
“What value does this have anyway?”
I sigh because these questions/temptations/excuses have been all too prevalent in my own life, and I know how many times I’ve caved. I didn’t really understand what Lent was offering, and so, in the face of ending sacrifice, I chose to relieve the pain.
But Lent is a picture of what this whole life could be. Walking this road of self-denial, selflessness, simplicity, and structure could give us a tangible experience of the abundant life that Jesus talked about in John 10:10. Because once we’ve lived something, and it’s brought about enlightenment and deeper relationship, chances are, we’re going to want to do it again.
That is what Lent offers — a full body experience of walking with the Divine. While that’s supposed to be what Christianity is about anyway, the knowledge that we only need to do it for five or six weeks makes it a little more tangible. A little more acceptable for our commitment cautious selves.
So how do you “do” lent? How do you participate and have Lent bring about fullness and life, instead of dread and shame? You submit yourself to Lent like you’d submit yourself to any journey: planning rest stops along the way, and knowing which towns you’re going to pass through and when. In other words: you pick a plan and follow it.
For some of you, that may mean picking a daily devotional. For others, that may mean that you break apart each week, focusing on one particular piece of lent. For the more social, outgoing members of our tribe, that may mean that you commit to attending a soup kitchen or fish fry every week, so that you both have something to look forward to and something to remind you of where you’re walking and why. If just thinking about planning that all makes you feel overwhelmed, I have some suggestions for these options given at the bottom of this blog.
We commit ourselves to this process because Lent reminds us that there’s something better than what we’re currently experiencing, but it’s going to take us letting go of whatever we’re clinging to in order to obtain it. We’re going to have to stop picking and choosing spiritual disciplines, and instead, come under the whole experience of what it means to lay down our lives and gain the whole world.
May you, who are rooted and established in love, yield to this process, and find life waiting at the end.
Immanuel Anglican Church created this video for reflection to go along with their sermon series, Deliver Us. It’s unique and powerful.
Biola University’s Daily Devotionals: http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/#
Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever: http://dynamiccatholic.com/bestlentever/
This page has the a quote and three of the liturgy of the hours prayers listed: http://www.universalis.com/today.htm
I will be writing on Prayer, Fasting, Alms Giving, Repentance, Rest and New Life every week until Easter. I already wrote the prayer post in the past couple of days. You can find it here.
Jerusalem Greer has a great week by week journey through lent that even works with kids. You can find the start of those blog posts here.
Andrew Arndt has become one of my favorite pastors and blog writers on Christianity. His first week reflection about lent, can be found here.
Soup Kitchens and Fish Frys
I live in Chicago, so I only know Chicago options, but after a quick search, I’m sure would yield some results. On the Northwest side of Chicago, St. James Church in Arlington Heights holds a Soup Kitchen. On the south side, St. Gerald church in Oak Lawn also does (have a conversation with Fr. Malcolm. You may just love him.) St. Germaine and St. Christina have some legendary fish frys. I’m sure there are many more, but you write what you know.
Rachel Held Evans writes “40 Ideas for Lent” every year. You can find this year’s post at: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/40-ideas-for-lent-2015
***I realize that this list of suggestions is very one-sided, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! These are my favorites because they are friends or friends-of-friends and I know their personal character (which is why I can recommend them.) But if you have suggestions, please comment below and help us all.