I’ve never “observed” Lent. This year I decided to take the plunge and get intentional about steeping in the season. God has taught me some significant things over the past several years about liturgy and ritual—and the subsequent “loss” that comes with the absence of these. Evangelical circles tend to let the observance of certain seasons slide a bit more than I have come to find is probably healthy. Lent is one of these “lost” seasons. Of course, there is the danger of allowing strict observance of certain traditions to dull the heart and deaden the vibrancy of faith. I’d like us to consider, though, that loss of certain traditions can also have the same effect.
So I am only now beginning to teach myself about the season—reading, thinking, praying, and wondering. The most thought I’ve ever really given to Lent has been in the form of, “gee, I wonder what I will ‘give up.’ Should I even bother giving something up?” It is different this time. I really want to live Lent this year.
Ash Wednesday crept up on me before I could decide what I wanted to let go of. Yesterday evening, as I lay in bed for a few hours battling a migraine, I started thinking about worry. This is another thing God’s been teaching me lately—how to handle worry, stress, and anxiety in healthier ways. My perfectionist tendencies often lead me to live with a lot of pressure and worry. I want to work on this.
So...I am giving up worry for Lent. I know what you are thinking—that’s impossible, right? Here’s the thing. Obviously I can’t entirely stop worrying. But I can be intentional about the time I spend in worry. I now carry around slips of paper on which I scrawl my worries as they sneak up on me during the day. I scribble them out and write a brief prayer (a ritual i need right now). This helps me acknowledge weakness and my need for strength to sacrifice habits of thinking and being that are unhealthy. It also teaches me to pray anew. There is something simple about intentionally letting go of my worries. There is something bold and beautiful about entrusting myself to the Lord's strength for facing temptation, sacrificing habits of weakness, and hoping toward newness.
In so many ways I am grateful for this season and my “new” recognition of it.
Yesterday I was reading an online lectionary, here, and came across a few prayers I want to share for this season:
“Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter's vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.”
How are you living Lent?