Lent falls on Valentine’s Day this year and I couldn’t be more excited. I have mixed thoughts on Valentine’s Day, which I won’t get into here, so I am glad for a day that can be focused on seeking God and considering my mortality. I found this online the other day and loved how perfectly it captured my anticipation of February 14, 2018.
I find that the season of Lent is an interesting time to reflect on our humanity (our ashy-ness) and our breath-by-breath need of God. Lent has also been a particularly meaningful season for me in the last few years. Three years ago, I was fresh off a cancer scare and actually had surgery on Ash Wednesday. Coming out of surgery and having the ashes imparted on my forehead continues to be one of the most holy and humbling moments of my life. I have come to love this time when I examine my messy heart with God and seek him.
In recent years, I have also started to see Lent as a time to create space. Interestingly, the practice of retreat has a similar end in mind. Retreats can be defined in many ways, but I’ve found it particularly helpful to define them as, set aside time and space to be with God in ways in which our daily lives do not allow. Similarly, in Lent, we create space, by fasting from foods, behaviors, etc., in order to spend more time with God than our normal, daily lives allow. So, to engage in Lent is to enter into an extended time of retreat, in the midst of our regular lives.
As I prepare to enter into another Lenten season, I begin to ask the questions I ask each year (and perhaps these might be helpful questions for yourself as well:
- Where do I need to create space for God in my life?
- Is there a particular type of fast that might help facilitate space for God?
- Is there a discipline that might help me engage with God?
- Are any of the fasts and/or disciplines that come to mind fueled by my own desire to perfect the practice of Lent in my own strength?
- God, what are you inviting me into during this season of Lent?
Let me not undertake this journey begrudgingly, but instead with love and thankfulness, saying, as Columba said: I thank You for this, my God: I am a traveler and stranger in the world, like so many of Your people before me. Amen. (Celtic Daily Prayer Book)