It's that time of year again -- time for Lenten spiritual practices!
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, where we confess that we need to spend the next six weeks sitting with our sin, reorienting ourselves toward God. It's not meant to be celebratory, and it contrasts beautifully with the exuberance of the resurrection glory on Easter Sunday.
Each year, Christians around the world take on Lenten spiritual practices, and I am one among them.
Last year, I wrote letters to people I love each day, expressing just how they'd affected my faith life. Writing many of them brought me to tears, and the responses I received are some of my most treasured memories. This year, I'm writing daily letters to strangers (my Starbucks baristas, musicians, POTUS) expressing my gratitude for their contributions to my everyday life. I don't expect any responses, haha. Additionally, some intern friends and I are reading a book together, hoping to check in weekly and talk about our adventures. :)
There's a tendency to think that Lenten disciplines are supposed to suck. That they're an excuse to really get going on that New Year's Resolution diet we've already given up on. That they're supposed to make us feel awful. I can't quiiiite get behind that. I like to think about Lenten spiritual practices in particular as an opportunity to let go of something that hinders us and to take on something that enlivens us. If you drink so much coffee that it's endangering your health, then maybe it's okay to give up coffee for Lent. But if it will just make you irritable and unproductive for a week before you give up and go back to your habit, that's no good. That's not why we do this.
A few years ago, my senior year at CLU, I gave up singing in worship for Lent. I can't believe I did that. I mean, those of you who know me know that that's my jam. And that, at present, it's part of my job description. But it was a fascinating experiment. You can read the Common Ground devotion I gave about it the week after Easter, here. This endeavor ended up teaching me to appreciate just how much I love to sing in praise of the God who gives me voice.
And I think that's a bit more of the goal, here. These next six weeks are a time to reflect on the world that we live in, for better or for worse, and to consider our relationships. As a wise youth director once said, it's all about relationships. So practice your relationships. Practice gratitude, practice patience, practice random acts of kindness, practice hope, practice silence, practice humility, practice joyful noise, practice interdependence, practice compassion. Practice, practice, practice.