I grew up in the church of Christ and, in that context, we did not practice Lent -- in fact, I am not sure I even heard the term "Lent" until some time after college. The idea of a season for self sacrifice and reflection was never considered. Even today I have many friends, who I love and respect, who express frustration over the practice of Lent. I have heard more than once the question "Shouldn't we sacrifice and work to be closer to God all the time, not just during a certain time of year?"
While, in principle, I agree with that, in practice the intensity and focus that a clearing season like Lent can bring is not something that most people can maintain over a long period of time. It is certainly not something I can maintain and without out it I become buried in the day to day details and excess baggage in my world. Even Jesus withdrew for a clearing season of 40 days and 40 nights.
And so, though I fully respect and appreciate the right of believers to choose not to participate in a Lenten season, I choose to embrace it. My fervor for this clearing time has been growing and I first began practicing my own version of Lent about 4 years ago. I began simply -- I wanted to work up to a 40 day fast but knew that if I was ever going to get there I would need to start small. The first year I gave up my biggest time waster -- computer games -- and chose to fast one day a week. It was difficult, but very rewarding. I am far from a spiritual giant and cannot claim any great spiritual awakening but it ignited a spark of desire for more and, over the last few years, I have come to hunger for this time of year.
Last year I had high aspirations but just a week or two in Burt became gravely ill and my hope for a clearing season of spiritual growth became a fight for survival. I abandoned my efforts at spiritual discipline and just held on for dear life. God was ever faithful throughout this time and provided for our every need, even in my weakness.
This year Easter is really late and so, therefore, is Lent. Usually it sneaks up on me and I suddenly find it is Ash Wednesday and I have not thought about (much less prayerfully considered) how to best spend my clearing season. This year, I have been waiting with anxious anticipation -- praying and planning this time of reflection and focus. I am longing for a period of renewal and deepened focus in my relationship with God and with the people in my world.
If you are reading this, I ask for your prayers and encouragement as I enter into study and prayer. I fear we may encounter some rough waters in the next few weeks and I would really like to be able to keep my commitment, come what may. Lately I have seen rays of spiritual light that I have not glimpsed in many years. I feel a stirring deep in my soul of a part of myself that has been dormant for too long. I am excited and a little afraid of what may come in the next 40 days but I am ready to enter into my clearing season!