Lent 2016: Wednesday February 10th – Thursday March 24th. Sundays are excluded when counting the 40 days. Lent is for all Christians, not just Catholics and mainline protestants.
For the past couple of year’s I’ve switched my focus during Lent from saying “no” to saying “yes”. In the past I had placed my attention on what I was giving up at the expense of realizing what I was gaining by practicing the spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season. When Jesus spent time in the desert, he didn’t simply say “no” to the temptations before him; he was also saying “yes” to all that God had to offer.
Our spiritual practices during Lent aren’t meant to be easy, but they aren’t meant to be torture either. When I choose something to give up during Lent I try to find something that benefits my spiritual life beyond the approximately six weeks of the season. This year I have chosen to say “no” to garbage foods and say “yes” to foods that make my body feel great. Sounds like a diet doesn’t it? But… it’s not a diet.
I decided to eliminate garbage foods and foods that my body doesn’t react well to because I have once again experienced negative physical reactions due to stress induced junk food snacking habits. I’ve been dealing with an increase in stress again and a decrease in my mindfulness and meditation practice. As a result of these changes, I realized I had started turning to mindless snacking to deal with unpleasant life stressors. My goal during this Lenten season is to reconnect with the spiritual discipline of turning to God when I feel anxiety, stress, or fear. I don’t need to use food or exercise to deal with issues when I have a God I can turn to instead.
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take some time to pray about what earthly habits or unnecessary pleasures you might want to say “no” to in exchange for a spiritual “yes” during this season.
Remember, Lent is not the same as our regular liturgical year. Whatever you take away you replace with extra time spent in prayer and reflection.
As an example, for some people Lent will mean not logging onto Facebook; this is great, but it only becomes a spiritual discipline if you replace that Facebook time with something reflective such as prayer, devotional reading, meditation on God’s words, or another spiritual activity of your choice.
What is something that you can focus on during Lent? e.g. Praying every day for the poor in your community; praying for political candidates in your area; commitment to learning about a justice issue that you are not familiar with or comfortable with; reading and learning about an area in your life where you need personal growth.
The following are some self-reflective questions for Creighton, “But this year we might reflect and ask the deeper question: What is God inviting me to change this Lent? How do I know what God might be stirring in me? I begin by listening to the movements in my heart. Where am I feeling uncomfortable with the choices I am making? With the things I have done? With the habitual ways I respond? The Lord will be speaking to me in those small nagging moments of discomfort in my heart. We can ask: What would it cost me to change this behavior. …What if I did decide to “give up” something really destructive in my life, ….? As I reflect, I might realize that changing a particular way I live is coming to me as a call from God and I don’t have to do it alone. God is moving my heart to reflect on these changes and God will remain faithful and help me to stay open to the grace being offered to me for change.”
There are many options to choose from. If you find yourself overwhelmed or unsure what to focus on, pray, meditate, ask God to reveal to you what sacrifices or changes would are needed in your life at this time.
Resources for Lent: