I’m no stranger to taking on or giving up something for Lent. One year I attempted to write a letter every day. Another year I stopped listening to music and podcasts during walks. Last year I began writing a poem a day during Lent, but I made it only four days.
There is one practice that, regardless of the season, my children and I take part in daily—reading. One of our favorites is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1989). I love sitting on the couch with the kids pressed into my sides, their heads on my shoulders, and the book’s words falling over us:
“Oh no! Grass! Tall wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.”
The children join me with loud voices: “We have to go through it!”
I wonder if this might be a motto for Lent, a season of reflection when God invites us to wander with Jesus in the desert, journey into the unknown and learn to trust that when we suffer, we’re not alone. Lent: “We have to go through it.”
In this past year of pandemic living, I’ve learned to take life day by day, navigating anxiety about the future and celebrating joy found in the present.
This Lent, which begins Feb. 17, I’m not planning anything grand for myself. I have no intention of taking on a new discipline or denying myself a certain food or activity. In this past year of pandemic living, I’ve learned to take life day by day, navigating anxiety about the future and celebrating joy found in the present.
Since COVID-19 took hold, there’s been no shortage of circumstances or big feelings that might cause us to turn away from others and God. Yet, Lent, the season of lengthening days, can hold our doubts of resurrection’s promise and pull us to the empty tomb where we are met by Christ.
Lent teaches us to hold postures of hope in the face of despair. Lent, I believe, calls to us to keep moving forward and saying together, We have to go through it. When we reach the final days of Lent, we are met not by what we’ve done or accomplished but rather by the work God has done on the cross. Lent shows us through the cross that death doesn’t have the final word.
This Lenten season, I invite you to feel all your feelings, dig into the story of Jesus’ life and death, and find small, meaningful ways to honor the season. Here are some suggested faith practices for your journey:
Deep breaths. It sounds so simple. It is simple. Yet too often I fail to take my own advice. This Lent, remember to breathe deeply. While doing so, perhaps you could meditate on a mantra such as I breathe in peace. I exhale worry.
Centering poems. When we’re bombarded by screens and media, it can be centering to step away from them. Instead, take time to savor a poem a day. Maybe pick one or two poems to read over and over the next 40 days. (Kathleen Norris, Pádraig Ó Tuama and Jan Richardson are poets whose work intersects with Christian themes.)
Light a candle. Sit by its glow. Watch the flame or smell the scent. Repeat as often as needed, whether aloud or silently: Jesus is the light of our world.
Lent calls to us to keep moving forward and saying together, We have to go through it.
Pay attention. Commit to noticing what’s around you. You can take as little as one minute to stop what you’re doing and look. What do you see? What do you smell? What is one thing right in front of you that you didn’t notice before? Name it and give thanks to God.
Sit with a story. Pick a book of the Bible (or one chapter, such as Exodus 16 or Matthew 10) and read through it as many times as you can during Lent. Don’t worry about how much you read or if you miss a day. The practice is about sitting with one text and listening for how God is speaking to you.
Connect. Be intentional about connecting with others. Take a few minutes each day and send a text or write a letter. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Whenever you connect, thank God for friendship.
Cook. Try a new recipe and savor the act of creating something. Scripture gives us many examples of sharing food. Jesus calls himself the bread of life, and throughout his ministry he sat down and ate with others. As you cook and bake, remember that in the making and breaking of bread, Jesus is present.
Finally, maybe most importantly, give yourself grace. Lent is not about achieving or doing but about resting in the God who calls us and walks with us through life, death and beyond.
Wherever you find yourself this Lent, know you’re not alone. We’ll go through it together.