Reclaim Lent: Find some breathing room
Have a specific prayer on your heart this Lent season? Share your requests with a mentor.
For many of us, our churches have moved away from the more austere traditions of the past. Our pastors don’t wear suits. Our worship teams have drummers and you can download a podcast of the sermon. In many ways church has become more relaxed and that can be a good thing. But in the midst of all of our renovations sometimes we lose the beauty of those very old traditions.
Take Lent for example. I was not raised with the tradition of Lent. Lent was a season that other denominations celebrated. It “wasn’t the way we do things”. I always thought of Lent as more of a punishment than a celebration – a time when you had to give things up. If your parents weren’t forcing you to participate, who would choose it?
Choosing to make some room
As I was researching about Lent I found the following paragraph on a blog written by a Catholic Nun. While I am not Catholic myself, I found her perspective nothing short of refreshing. She writes:
“When Ash Wednesday hits we tend to think, “O no, now I have to give something up.” But Ash Wednesday and Lent are so much more than that. It is a time of preparation, a time of freeing ourselves from the things that bind us and moving into a deeper relationship with God, our family and friends, and the Church community. It is a time to celebrate the gifts God has given us, to examine how well we live those gifts, and to clear away the things that prevent us from being the gifted person we are. What’s not to love about that?” (Why Lent Rocks on anunslife.org)
Fasting is more than ‘giving up’
Fasting is a discipline and there is much value in it purely for that reason alone. But in addition to the self-discipline of fasting there is the expectation that we will take the time that would have gone to eating and spend it with God. The other side of giving something up is the space that that “something” leaves for us.
Think of your family budget. If you are trying to save up for something or if things are getting a little tight, taking something out of your expenses can give you a little wiggle room. I experienced this earlier this year when I realized how much my daily coffee added up to over the course of the year. Cutting back on coffees puts some change back in my pocket. It creates some room in my budget for other things.
It’s this space and what we do with it that can get lost in our experience of Lent. If I fast from a meal then the time I can spend with God is fairly obvious. But if I fast from a favorite food – say chocolate – it’s harder to take each instance of ‘not having chocolate’ and use that time to draw closer to God.
If you’re looking for a new way to experience Lent, try one of these ideas:
- Fast from a specific meal. This is hardly a new idea but rather than fasting from a favorite food for all of Lent, consider fasting from a specific meal – maybe lunch on Wednesdays or breakfast on Saturday morning. Set aside the time to find a quiet place and be with God. There are countless Bible studies and devotionals that will take you through the weeks leading up to Easter. Set aside this extra time to pray and meet with God.
- Fast from an unnecessary activity. This could mean turning of the television at specific times or turning off the radio on your drive into work. Find an activity that just fills the time and reclaim that time to be with God.
- Fast from complexity. Is there something that you do on a weekly basis that is fancier or more complex than it needs to be? If so, there is an opportunity to replace that with something simpler to get back some time to spend with God. If you make a big Sunday lunch each week you could serve soup & buns instead or pick up a bucket of chicken on the way home and save the time you would have spent in the kitchen. This could turn into a great way to spend together with God as a family.
- Fast from your usual quiet time routine and try something completely different. They say a change is as good as a rest. Try replacing your usual quiet time devotions with a completely different sort. If you usually study and pray at home, try a prayer walk. If you use a devotional book, try listening to worship music or a devotional podcast. Sometimes our most important activities can become routine. Switching up how you spend time with God can be a breath of fresh air.
James 4:8 says “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” This invitation waits for us in these days of Lent. When we set aside time to draw in tighter to God He promises to meet us in those moments. If your life could use a little more peace, if you need God to remind you that He has promised to take care of you, Lent can be a wonderful time to draw in close and hear God whisper.