I’m writing this on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, which is the period of forty days preceding Easter. Traditionally, it is a season for reflection and repentance—turning toward God and away from whatever separates us from God—as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. The forty days of Lent represent the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring temptation and suffering before he began his ministry. It’s an opportunity to identify with Christ and deepen our relationship with God. A common practice during this season is to fast or give up something so that we become more aware of our reliance on God and both increase and intensify our time in prayer.
In the past I’ve given up certain foods, social media, and unhelpful practices such as complaining—some with more “success” than others—though it’s really not about “success” at all but about the practice of focusing our minds on God. Yet, if we’re really honest, there are times when our self-denial may be less about deepening our relationship with God and more about losing weight, becoming healthier, or bettering ourselves in some way. Or we might tell ourselves that any self-improvement resulting from our self-denial is merely a nice “bonus.” I’ll admit I've told myself that before—just keeping it real.
If we're really honest, there are times when our self-denial may be less about deepening our relationship with God and more about . . . bettering ourselves in some way.
Like many others, I’ve found that giving up something for Lent is not always the best way for me to draw closer to God. Sometimes taking on something—such as adding or recommitting to a spiritual practice or being intentional in the ways I love and serve others—helps me to experience God more fully. Just as God speaks to us in different ways, we can be drawn to different practices at different times, especially if we’re in a season of hardship or loss.
The last two years have brought some significant losses in my life—the loss of my mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, my father to Parkinson’s, several family friends to Covid and other illnesses, both of our longtime pets to advanced age, and another loss I will share more about at another time. Though your losses may be very different than mine, the truth is that the last year has brought loss and difficulty to all of us. This continues to be an ongoing wilderness season, adding the weight of communal loss to what we are carrying personally. So, this Lent I’m sensing an invitation to journey through the season with gentleness and grace, giving myself permission to do the things that draw me nearer to God and help me to experience and rest in God’s extravagant love—which, after all, is the reason God sent Jesus in the first place (John 3:16). God’s message always has been and always will be, “You are so loved!” That’s a message I need every day, and I suspect you do too.
This Lent I’m sensing an invitation to journey through the season with gentleness and grace, giving myself permission to do the things that draw me nearer to God and help me to experience and rest in God’s extravagant love.
For the next forty days, I’m letting go of rigidity and choosing simply to “hang out” with God each day in whatever way I feel drawn. Some days I may spend time in Centering Prayer, which is sitting quietly with God without words. (If that appeals to you, see below.) Other days I may choose to journal, capturing my conversation with God on paper. (If that interests you, also see below.) Some days I may choose to spend time in imaginative prayer, entering the Scripture scene through the God-given gift of my imagination—one of the most experiential and powerful ways we can pray. No doubt there will be days when I simply take a walk or spend time on my yoga mat, meditating on God and God’s Word as I move my body. Whatever I do, I will allow the Spirit to lead me, asking myself questions such as these:
What will give me life today?
What will deepen my connection with God/Christ today?
What will increase my sense of faith/hope/love today?
What will give me joy in the Lord today?
Giving up something may be just what you need to draw you closer to God this Lent. If so, I encourage you to allow your self-denial to be a way of walking gently toward Easter, remembering that the objective is not to be “successful” but simply to focus on your relationship with God. Or perhaps, like me, you may decide that what will bring more spiritual growth in this season is to add rather than subtract something from your life. Maybe you will choose a combination of the two. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to discern what will deepen the life and love of God in you
Lent is not a one-size-fits-all season, and it’s okay for your practices to look different from those of others.
Lent is not a one-size-fits-all season, and it’s okay for your practices to look different from those of others. Listen to your deepest, truest self—the part of you where the Spirit of God dwells—and allow God’s Spirit in you to reveal what will be most nourishing to your spiritual heart right now. Then choose to do that, trusting that your journey will bring you closer to the heart of God!
Join us each Wednesday during Lent for 30 minutes of Centering Prayer and learn to rest in God's love as we sit in silence with no other agenda except letting go and trusting him. Click here to register.
Join us on Saturday, March 6 from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm CST for this introduction to journaling as a spiritual practice. Click here to register.
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.