This year Lent begins on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018. If feels like Christmas just barely ended and now we are on to the second half of the wonderful story of God’s love for us all.
There is a misconception that Lent is only for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, however, I am pleased to inform everyone that Lent is celebrated and observed by believers from a variety of denominations.
Every year I make it clear to people that Lent is not about punishing yourself or making yourself miserable for 40 days. Lent is about joining Jesus in the desert to grow closer to God. Lent is an active way to remember that we are dependent on God for our spiritual strength and that despite having an abundance of material goods, nothing can satisfy our souls except God.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” Luke 4: 1-4
Jesus was never alone during those 40 days, the spirit of God was with him. When we struggle it may feel as if God is absent, and the lies we tell ourselves may lead to the belief that God has abandoned us, but that is not the nature of our Lord, he is with us always. The feeling of absence is called emotional and spiritual pain.
God doesn’t test us and we are told not to test him (Luke 4:7). “Testing” others is a form of manipulation and this type of behaviour has no place in a relationship, especially the one we have with God.
In the desert Jesus shows us how to respond to temptations and anything that enters our lives that threatens to remove God from being the most important in our lives; he shows us to respond with truth and the word of God.
For Lent 2018 I will be reading Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, by Trish Harrison Warren. I chose this book because I wanted to learn to be present to the presence of God in my daily, ordinary activities and interactions. And, if you’re wondering what I’m “giving up” for Lent, the answer is nothing. I decided that the words and obsession with “giving up” can easily lead us to focus too much on accomplishing a habitual goal instead of the spiritual experience of gaining a deeper relationship with God. During Lent I will intentionally engage in prayer walks. Walking is something I find deeply meditative and calming. I haven’t been walking much lately and I can see how it has affected my spiritual disciplines and prayer life. Winters in northern Canada can be brutal, and this year we’ve had a lot of snow, and this has been my reason for not doing much walking.
For those 40 days I will be doing daily prayer walks. What I’ve “given up” is idle time that is often spent on Netflix, going to the fridge or cupboard for snacks, Facebooking, or other activities that aren’t adding much to my life. The idea of Lent isn’t to give up things that are sinful or unhealthy for you (these things are best given up forever, not for a mere 40 days). The goal is to engage in increased prayer, reflection, and charitable giving or works.
However you chose to celebrate the love and redemption that God gives us, my hope is that it will bring you closer to him and provide a deeper understanding of the power and strength provided to us by his Holy Spirit.