When my husband and I were first married we used to “do” Lent together. We would decide on something to sacrifice, where we would give our alms, explore a devotional together – and support one another in our journey. This is what we call the discipline of Lent: prayer, fasting, almsgiving (or works of love). That was a long time ago.
After 19 years a lot has changed, and I struggle now with Lent. I still find it deeply meaningful to reflect on my faith – its strengths and weaknesses, where I could improve in my practice of my relationship with the Lord and my neighbors. Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s parenthood.
When you’re 25 and giving up chocolate for 40 days it’s an adventure – a craving to conquer. Now, I’m less concerned with what to give up and more concerned with giving more time to my children as they grow up before my eyes. When you’re 29 and the only major expense you have is your student loan, it’s not so hard to set aside some extra dollars for World Hunger. Now with doctor bills, jiu jitsu classes, baseball, groceries, clothes for always growing children, the hope that maybe even ONE of them will go to college, that we haven’t had a raise in years and that we already MORE than tithe, it’s downright hard to think of giving extra. When you’re young and it’s just the two of you there’s lots of “time” on your hands to pray, listen to music, read, go hiking – any of the many things that can feed your soul. Now I’m lucky if I manage to shower each day, let alone devote extra time to prayer.
Lent just isn’t what it used to be. But maybe that’s the point. As we grow in years, and hopefully in wisdom and faith as well, our practices will change as WE change.
Perhaps now instead of giving up something like chocolate, the fast should be more “cerebral” in nature. Some people talk about fasting from bad attitudes, and I think that’s infinitely better for our faith and the sake of the world than 40 days without a Hershey bar. For me, at this point in my life, I should probably fast from the computer. Not that I could do without it completely in the world we live in now. But this Lent I will try to spend less time looking at the screen, and more time looking into the faces of my children.
This Lent I may not give extra financial gifts – but I can make better use of the time I give to help neighbors in need and my church. After all, giving alms isn’t just about giving money. Alms are works of love that benefit our neighbors and our community. If you find yourself financially strapped, then it is perfectly appropriate to give of your time or a talent.
Prayer is a tough one. How can we say that we already pray enough? Obviously we can NEVER pray enough. And it’s not surprising that with three kids, all of whom have their special challenges, my time to enjoy the things that feed my soul, prayer included, suffer. At least I’ve started playing guitar again, but that was really because the church needed a guitarist for its band. I’ve enjoyed doing that, but honestly it IS work. So extra prayer time? Ha. Except, instead of setting aside time in the chair, or time at the table with a devotional, just maybe I could spend that precious shower time in communion with God. I mean, honestly, what better time could you have to reflect on your baptism and what that means than when water is pouring over you, making you feel clean and refreshed? It’s perfect really. It’s a re-orienting of how my time is spent, not trying to find “extra” time.
So, the struggle of Lent for me has been one of changing how I do it, as the person I am has changed. It’s not as simple as it used to be, but neither is my life. And while I used to see that as a bad thing, I now understand it’s all part of growing up – both in years, and in faith.
There are no “rules” for how each person can do Lent. It’s a matter of exploring and strengthening where we are on our journey of faith. However you find yourself doing that my prayers are with you, and I ask that yours be with me as well. Blessed Lent…