I have a self-help book called 40 Days to a New You, which I bought on a whim at an airport. Well, that’s not what Lent is. Self improvement is a fine goal, but that’s not what this church season is about.
Lent is walking on a journey with your faith community to become closer to God. Lent calls us to faith practices to deepen our prayer life and our study of Scripture. Giving up chocolate is not a faith practice (but it’s a noble discipline, assuming you don’t eat five chocolate bunnies on Easter Sunday).
Maybe instead of focusing on giving up something, you can take on something—going to your congregation’s Wednesday service. Maybe it would be the traditional three faith practices that Christians since ancient times have used to prepare their hearts for Easter: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Maybe you could spend some time in daily solitude and reflection. Or make time to read books on topics related to faith and spirituality. Many of us struggle with quiet time and meditation. This is the season to address that.
Lent is a time to take inventory of how we live our lives, and also, to repent of our sins. This doesn’t mean we should beat ourselves up for our shortcomings, though that is a temptation. We need to focus on a closer, cozier life with Jesus. More intentional. It might require hard work! I would say, don’t focus on your mistakes; focus on where we draw our hope.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the late Episcopal theologian Robert Farrar Capon: “But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, and certainly will need from here on out into the New Jerusalem: the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the Love that draws us home.”
Blessings on your journey to the Love that draws us home.
Kate Sprutta Elliott is the editor of Gather magazine.
Photo by jezebeljones. Used with permission.