my first lent

Lent begins tomorrow. I’ve never done anything for Lent before. My churches have never observed it. Actually, I thought it might have a whiff of legalism and ritualism to it.

But seeing as it’s been practiced by Christians for centuries (our first record of Lent goes back to Irenaeus, who died in AD 203 – see a short history of lent), I now suspect there might be something to it. I suspect it might be a season of reflection and growth for many people.

So this year I’m giving it a go.

Simplifying_the_SoulI planning on working through a book I heard about from Anna Blanch’s blog, ‘Simplifying the Soul‘, by Paula Huston.Huston is Catholic, so the approach is a bit different to what I’m used to (thought, the more I learn of Catholicism from Catholics themselves, the more I respect it). The tagline is ‘Lenten practices to renew your soul.’ I struggle to pray. I struggle with doubt and disillusion. Renewal. This sounded like the book for me.

Each day  has a suggested practice, along with a verse and meditation  to guide your thoughts and prayers through lent. The weeks are themed – money, the body, the mind, the schedule, relationships and prayer – with Sundays off because they’re days of celebration. Over the next month I’ll have a go at:

  • clearing out a drawer of junk
  • praying on my knees
  • wearing my oldest clothes for a day
  • covering all the mirrors in my house
  • visiting someone in hospital
  • giving to charity
  • walking instead of driving
  • turning off my mobile
  • spending an hour in solitude
  • sitting in silence with a friend
  • praying for strangers I see

The aim is not to get holy points with someone: not you; not God; not even myself. Huston explicitly warns against that kind of approach.

This book is not meant to be a spiritual version of the Girl Scout honour badge programme, and if you look upon it as a handbook for self improvement, you’ll more than likely become frustrated and disappointed.

It can’t be like earning Brownie badges because the point, she says, is to learn humility.

I’m doing this because I believe there’s a difference between storing information in your head, feeling something in your body and knowing it in your heart. I hope, by giving my body a chance to feel things as I work through these practices, that God will be teaching me a bit more humility, a bit more patience, a bit more compassion, or maybe a bit of something else I can’t even predict. I hope I’ll slow down a little and notice the ways God has been good to me in the small and the big things.

Are you doing anything in preparation for Easter this year? What have you done in the past? Will you join me?

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