How to have your best Lent ever
What is Lent all about? Why do we have this season anyway? Is it about giving up candy, Netflix, Facebook and meat? Why all the focus on “sacrifice”? Why do we fast? How do we decide what to “give up”? Why do we pray? How do we pray? Why do we spend this time focusing on filling food banks and upping our tithe? Is it just a good time of year to make us feel guilty about everyone less fortunate? Just a good time of year to make us feel guilty about being fortunate? a time of year to make us feel guilty about what we give up or don’t give up? about whether we meet or don’t meet our resolutions?
If we don’t experience the extreme levels of guilt often characteristic of this Season we might find ourselves experiencing other “non-lenten” emotions such as apathy or resistance. “I’m a good person, why should I have to do anything different”? or “I hate lent because I just can’t deal without my daily Starbucks” It is true that Lent encourages us to make sacrifices, to die to ourselves like Christ, to give more, to work harder, to move outside our comfort zone…. but the purpose often gets lost in the details. Let’s get back to what really matters!
The purpose of Lent is to find God again! To remind ourselves of who He is and how we are connected. It is to rediscover a relationship with Him that reminds us who WE are and brings life into focus once more. The purpose of Lent is to step out of the chaos and find ourselves again at our center, at PEACE.
How to recenter ourselves again this Lent
1 ) Remember, God is in control
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days – (Luke 4:1)
If He is our center, then our Lent should be about Him, not ourselves. If we are using Lent as a booster shot for our New Year’s Resolution to lose 10 pounds and therefore we give up dessert, our Lent will be meaningless. Work on your prayer life. Find some silence. Ask God to help you know what to do. Remember, He designs our Seasons – Even Christ only went into the desert at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Are we close enough to Him to know what He is preparing for us?
Some tips on How to pray about what God might be asking of you for Lent:
1.Break your life up into 3 categories:
- Relationship with God
- Relationship with Others
- Relationship with Self
2. Ask yourself: What is something I need to weed out (see point 2 below) in each of those areas in order to be less distracted from who I am meant to be and more centered on Christ? What can I do that is good to counteract or replace the bad habit I am working on in each area? (See point 3 below)
3. Check your work: Will my resolutions bring me closer to Christ? the person I am supposed to be? Do I think I can reasonably accomplish these goals? Are they tangible yet challenging? Would God would be happy with my efforts in this area or is there something else I know He wants me to do that I am ignoring?
2) Give something up
Be in the world but not of it. (multiple verses)
We do not belong here, we were made for heaven and our hearts long for it (See post on Longing). The world tries to disguise its shortcomings by offering us superficial comforts. We often try to satisfy our longings with these comforts, sometimes without even knowing it. Lent calls us to fast so that we can step back from the comforts we’ve grown accustomed to in order to realize how much more satisfying are the things which this world cannot offer us.
The 40 days of Lent are supposed to be remembering Christ’s sojourn in the desert. This is why we are encouraged to “fast” during Lent. We are imitating Him as He prepared for His public ministry. We too are preparing for our Public Ministry. We cannot be witness for the Gospel unless we have filled ourselves “not by bread alone” (Luke 4:4).
3) Take something on
He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. (Luke 4:2)
Fill up the holes leftover from giving something up. Give the holes meaning so that you aren’t subject to the temptations that come afterward toward bitterness or overindulgence. We need to constantly contemplate the second meaning of Lent – that of the Passion – as well here. The Crucifixion of Christ was a JOYFUL event. It was the greatest love story EVER LIVED. I was lucky enough to be able to experience this in a personal way this Ash Wednesday. The Cross brings forth new life in a very real and tangible way. We may not experience the Resurrection until Easter but until then we can console ourselves by the fact that we DO KNOW the end of the story. It is something to Rejoice over, something to be congratulated and celebrated, not something to mourn (“Weep not for me…” – Luke 23:28). Life cannot carry on without the Cross. In Lent too we have the joy of carrying the cross WITH Christ. Ordinarily, He always walks with you, now you get to walk with Him. Christ took more on in His passion, didn’t so much give stuff up. This is why DOING more for Lent is even more important than simply “giving something up” in the traditional sense.
Ask yourself today. Do you see Lent as an opportunity or an obligation? Do you see it as the ability to bud into a renewed, rejuvenated, resurrected version of yourself? or something that exists only to “crucify” you?
Our tendency towards selfishness and “self preservation” is to fight Lent because it entails change – change where it matters, change where it hurts. But fighting is INCOMPATIBLE with peace! As long as we continue to rebel against the true purpose of Lent and learn to embrace it we can never find the peace we seek.
Best Lent Ever – Matthew Kelly