Lenten Devotion - day 5
So far, we’ve spent some time talking about forgiveness, letting go, gratefulness, and my comfort in the cross, I think. These letters have become a Lenten practice for me, and for that I thank you. I thought today I might share with you what Lent means to me, why I celebrate it, and why I love it.
Lent comes from the Old English word “lencten,” which means “springtime” or “spring season.” In other languages the word for Lent is derived from the Latin term "quadragesima," which means "fortieth," referring to the forty days of fasting and reflection leading up to Easter.
To be fair, I like the English derivative more. I like the idea of Lent being some kind of springtime for the soul. Yes, I realize that my focus on the cross yesterday might seem closer to a wintertime theme—death and grieving and the like—but, Lent is the invitation to grow closer with the Divine. Sometimes grieving is growing closer with the Divine, and there are many other things that bring us closer to God.
Said another way, Lent is our invitation to center ourselves in God, and even become one with God. I hope my mystical tendencies don’t make me sound crazy to you, but even if they do, walk with me a ways please.
You know that Lent is a time of spiritual reflection and renewal, a time to grow closer to God through prayer, fasting, and other such spiritual practices. But, none of these practices should be done with sorrow. So many people think of Lent as some morose time to lament the sorry state of our lives and the nightmares we’ve made of them. If you feel that at all, let that go. That is simply the ego trying to hold onto power.
Lent isn’t about fear, it is about freedom. Lent isn’t a time to be sorry, it is a time to forgive ourselves and empty ourselves so that we may be filled with God’s love and glad to be alive.
Most of us today aren’t filled with God’s love at all. We are filled with all sorts of things, all kinds of desires, all manner of fears, and God knows what else. We are so filled we are in a constant state of worry. Will we satisfy our desires (no); will we find fulfillment in material gain (no); will we cease to be worried if we just have enough (no).
This void in our souls is the winter, not Lent. Lent is the chance for the nightmares of our lives to become awakened dreams of God. Lent is the opportunity to fast from what doesn’t give us life, so that we might be filled by what actually gives us life.
There is that word “fast” again. Let’s take it at its most basic meaning, fasting from food. How often do we eat without ever thinking about it? Do you read from your phone and eat and find that you barely tasted your meal? So much of what we go about in our lives is rote. There is a line in a song I like that says, “habit is the enemy of presence.”
Food has become habitual to most of us. We can go through a drive through, get a meal in a bag, eat in the car, and never once think about it. Most of us don’t eat for hunger, we eat for pleasure, we eat to hide our feelings, we eat out of habit because we are never paying attention. Many saints have found that in taking food away, they encounter the pieces of themselves they hide in habitual ways. When they find their broken pieces in their fasting, they then find themselves being healed too, because they are finally present.
Lent is about awareness, and awareness will always lead us to a springtime of the soul. I need my annual springtime of the souls, and every year when I pay attention to how my habits are the enemy of my presence, I find that in letting my habits go for a while I notice God everywhere, because I am present.
When I notice God everywhere is when everything becomes holy, including me and you. If you want to experience a springtime of the soul, wait until everything becomes holy. It is impossible not to feel centered in God when everywhere you look the Divine Reality is there.
Some will claim they are giving up chocolate, or wine, or whatever for Lent. Some will grow deeper and give up gossiping, or complaining, or anger. But few will grow even deeper and fast for real, to notice that their habits kept them from God. I go deeper because I love Lent, because I need Lent, because when I am centered in God, I know Shalom. I wish that for you too.
It’s certainly still winter. It’s cold and rainy. But it is Lent in my soul. Thank you for letting me write these to you, you are helping spring grow in my soul.
Until tomorrow my friend,