A View from the Pew: 5 Ways to Make Lent More Meaningful

Pew_sm

Whether the season of Lent has been part of your tradition or not, it can be a helpful time of spiritual reflection and growth. I didn’t grow up observing it, but when introduced to Lent about 20 years ago, I enjoyed this annual time of intentional focus on my discipleship.

This year Ash Wednesday falls on March 6, so you still have time to plan your Lenten observance. Here are five suggestions to make the season more meaningful:

  • Fasting. Let’s start with the obvious. Most people think of Lent as a season of giving something up. It’s true that this type of fast can make the season mean more, but only if your fast has a deeper meaning. If you are giving up sweets, which I have on occasion, then replace the eating of a treat with reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice. Every time you pass on that milkshake or piece of birthday cake is an opportunity to remember what has been given up for you. If you lose a few pounds in the process that’s fine, but that shouldn’t be the point. And if you are fasting from television or Facebook or screens in general, replace it with something that will enhance your relationship with God. Don’t let your fast be an empty sacrifice.
  • Feasting. One of the lesser-known “rules” of Lent is that your period of fasting does not include Sundays. These are your “feast days,” not “cheat days.” If we stick with the giving up sweets example, Sunday is your day to say “yes” to the chocolate cake when you’ve been saying “no” all week. The key here is the reason behind your indulgence in the feast. Every Sunday is to be a day of worship and celebration of the resurrection, not just on Easter Sunday. If your feast flows from a joyful recognition that Jesus is alive and part of your life, then enjoy that piece of cake. But if you are only looking to satisfy your sweet tooth ignored during the week, you’re cheating and not truly feasting.
  • Simplicity. The global movement to simplify our lives has been in full force for years, but Lent is a great time to clean out the unwanted and unneeded items in our closet and in our lives. As with fasting and feasting, the key is to make it meaningful by reflecting on what is truly important in your life and getting rid of everything—possessions and activities—that distract from those priorities. Ideally, you prioritize your relationship with God and make time for that relationship when you strip away the busyness. Revisiting your schedule is a good place to start.
  • Repentance. I’ll deal with this idea more in depth next month, but Lent is supposed to be about preparing your heart for the celebration of Easter. There’s no better preparation than to begin a daily practice of confessing your sins to God in prayer or even in a journal, and actively seeking to move past those temptations. Working on overcoming temptation can be a frustrating exercise, but being honest with yourself and taking on the challenge will yield rewards long after Easter.
  • Charity. Another of the more traditional habits associated with Lent is giving alms or giving to charity. Creating this habit can be life-changing. The kind of charitable giving I’m thinking of goes beyond your regular tithes and offerings. This is more of a “planned spontaneous” giving that can dramatically improve someone’s circumstances or benefit a ministry in which you are already invested. If your church has an Easter offering for missions, start putting money aside on Ash Wednesday, and aim to save as much money as you can from whatever it is you are fasting from. That will give your fast even greater meaning when you make a more significant contribution to the Lord’s work.

None of this is earth-shattering or original. It’s my hope that a few of these simple suggestions will seem doable enough that you’ll start your Lenten journey this year with a plan for going deeper in your relationship with God. Peace be with you.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email