My Lenten Journey
I grew up going to a private Catholic school from first to eighth grade. This is where I first I heard about Lent. In fact, Lent was kind of a big deal during those early years. We celebrated Fat Tuesday with a school-wide carnival and talked openly about what we’d choose to give up for the season. I distinctly remember one of my teachers giving up coffee for Lent. She was noticeably grumpy for weeks.
Outside of my elementary school days, the practice of Lent wasn’t something I actively participated in. Sure, I knew when it happened and certainly thought about its significance, but I didn’t pursue it.
This year, though, I decided to embark on my own Lenten journey. It’s been a season of contemplation, joy, and focus.
As I considered the season of Lent–its meaning and purpose–I identified a few things I’d give up to represent sacrifice and focus, and also a few activities I wanted to pursue in order to bring greater clarity in my life. Two words stuck out over and over again: intention and rhythm.
During Lent, I wanted to be intentional about how I spent my time and honest about the “why” behind what I was doing. Moreover, I wanted to think about the pace of my life.
The first thing I did was attempt to give up eating meat on Fridays during Lent. This sounds small and I suppose it is, but it was still a challenge for me.
Next I attempted to adjust my devotional time. I read a daily devotional centered on Lenten themes and spent time reading through the gospel of Matthew. I tried to be consistent here–same time, same place, every day. I did this through the Bible app You Version. N.T. Wright has an incredible 40 day Lent Reading Plan that I highly recommend.
In the spirit of being intentional, I also kept track of how I was spending my time each day. I used an app called Way of Life, which allows you to identity certain activities you want to pursue every day, and those you want to avoid, and then keeps a record of how you do.
I did this throughout Lent, taking an inventory of my time and practices. Being aware of how I spent my time not only helped me clarify where the hours in the day actually went, but also helped me think about my daily rhythm.
As I focused on my rhythm and intentions, I also realized how cluttered life was. Things were busy. Things were messy. Part of my busyness was connected to a hectic schedule, but another part had to do with my physical environment. There was lot’s of stuff around.
So, I started clearing it away. I purged my closest of clothes and shoes and things we didn’t need. We scheduled a garage sale. I took part in the Japanese art of decluttering by asking the question, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer was no, it went away. It felt so freeing to be, well, free of unnecessary stuff.
My Lenten journey helped me slow down and quiet the clamor of busyness. I turned off my phone and set limits on media consumption. And my soul felt at ease.
As we begin Holy Week, I am trying to continue this intentionality and pace, to be fully aware of the sacrifice of Christ. This Thursday we’ll host a Passover Seder for our college students, thinking through the incredible symbolism of the event, and trying to be present as Jesus is present with us.
I want to feel and experience all that this week means.
Lent taught me the art of…
Taking deep breaths.
Quieting the mind and in turn quieting the soul.
That’s been my Lenten Journey so far–a season of going without, so I might be aware of all that is going on within.