Lent is a spiritual practice where we can decide to intentionally make space in our lives to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It starts on Ash Wednesday and takes place over the 40+ days leading up to Easter Sunday. Some of us grew up with Lent being a mandatory part of our church life and others of us have only started to play with the idea of Lent as adults. Because of this diversity The Commons has complied some helpful hints for you. In many ways Lent boils down to a little subtraction & addition.
SUBTRACTION: You may choose to fast for Lent by subtracting something from your routine. The idea is to give up something from your daily life that you like (coffee, chocolate, TV, Instagram, meat, sugar, etc…). As you miss or crave the thing that you are fasting from, you are reminded that Easter is coming. You are given multiple small opportunities each day to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through your small sacrifice.
SUNDAYS: If you decide to give something up for Lent it is helpful to also embrace the practice of breaking your fast on Sundays. There is a beautiful rhythm of fasting and feasting over lent. Your lent fast is tied into thoughts of the sacrifice made on Good Friday, but on Sundays you break your fast (and indulge in the thing you gave up) so that every Sunday is tied into thoughts of Feasting, Resurrection, Easter, and Sabbath Rest. Because of this rhythm it is important to only fast from something that is also good for you to take up again. Trying to improve your long term health is a good thing to do but it is something different than fasting for lent. It is very important to be able to break your fast with feelings of joy rather than shame or guilt.
ADDITION: Adding something extra to your life for Lent is another great way tojourney towards Easter. You could chose to add a spiritual practice (lectio divina, breath prayer, prayer of examine, etc…). You could set aside a daily time to read your Bible or another book that will help you learn something about Jesus. Any good thing could be added for lent (writing letters, walking, volunteering, taking a class, drawing, etc…). Changing the rhythm of your daily life can be a reminder that Easter is coming. Whatever you decide to take on, be intentional and make a plan. If you haven’t set aside a time or place for the activity you have taken on it most likely isn’t going to happen. In some ways taking something on is also a fast, you are fasting from the time you would have used to do something else.
DON’T LOSE HOPE: If you find 2 weeks into Lent that things aren’t going as you planned (your fast is too hard, you haven’t been consistent with what you took on, etc…) don’t despair. Use the reminder of your imperfection to think about how we need God’s grace in all things. Perhaps you need to modify your fast or you need to rearrange your time or routine to be more supportive of what you are trying to do. It is OK to acknowledge to God (and yourself) that something is hard. Jesus did exactly that shortly before his death when he prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want.” (Matt 26:39 CEV)
Blessings to you as you begin your Lenten journey.
Click here for a PDF copy of this information about Lent.