When I was younger I decided to give up chocolate for Lent one year (original, I know). The problem was, I would often forget and I remember once finding myself outside Greggs with an almost finished Chocolate Eclair. As soon as I remembered, I felt an intense feeling of guilt! Is this what Lent’s about? Is it simply about depriving ourselves from something we enjoy, only to feel guilt and shame if we don’t quite stick to it? I don’t think so.
Lent is a season of preparation. 40 days of preparation ahead of when we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. 40 days that echo the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, when he fasted and was tempted by the devil. A season to deepen faith and lean in. An opportunity to take stock of where we’re at and to acknowledge that we need God’s grace, mercy & forgiveness.
Lent is about stripping away and making room for God. Rather than being an escape, Lent is a space for us to come face to face with God, learning how to trust in him when we let go of our plans. For Jesus, the season in the wilderness was not a place of weakness, but of strength. Jesus knew the Father and trusted in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”. Like Jesus, we are invited to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you feel like you’ve been in a season of enforced wilderness for the last few years, as we’ve experienced disruption and loss due to COVID-19. My encouragement to you this year is to recognise that Lent is not an enforced wilderness, but an invitation. It is costly and it can be hard, but the invitation is to draw closer to God, rather than withdraw. Lent is not about scalding ourselves when we mess up, but about accepting the forgiveness and grace of God and acknowledging that we aren’t able to do it alone.
My invitation to you this Lent is to lean in and open yourself up to trusting in God. Why not create a new pattern or rhythm for 40 days, one that allows you to prepare, trust, and accept the invitation of God? Here are a few creative ideas to help you draw near to God:
- Join in with a prayer schedule - Lectio 365 is a great example of a daily devotional.
- Read something good for your soul.
- Fast something - Phone? Food? Tv? Social media? Fasting is not about a quest for control or feeling superior, but acknowledging that there is more to life than this. It’s about trusting our lives into the hands of God.
- Give something away - commit to giving to your local Foodbank, or supporting a local charity.
- Make a list of 40 people and commit to sending one person a day an encouraging message.
- Write your own psalm or worship song each day.