Lent is just around the corner and preparing others to enter into the spirit of this season means that we often neglect our own Lenten journey. We rush into Ash Wednesday with some ideas for Lenten resolutions (similar to last year’s practices and the ones before that) and find ourselves busier than ever. Easter comes with a flurry of activity, often leaving us feeling more tired than ever. Instead of feeling uplifted and renewed, we feel depleted and weary.
This year unlock the grace of Lent by using these four keys, L-E-N-T:
- Let Go
- Enter In
- Never Give Up
- Time Out
A few years ago, I decided that I was not going to rocket through Lent as I normally did; instead, I was going to slow down and prepare accordingly. What I ended up doing, however, was creating a “to do” list of things that I wanted to accomplish by Easter that was half a mile long! By Easter, everything on that list was accomplished, but I felt depleted and knew that I had missed out on the significance of the Lenten journey. I was so busy charting out my own path that I did not pay attention to where God was leading me. Rather than being in control, let go of your own expectations for Lent and let God do the rest. Lent is a journey, not a race.
Give yourself full permission to enter into Lent by opening your heart and surrendering to whatever surprises God has in store for you. Be attentive and aware of his presence. Take the time to reflect and pray about the Lenten readings. Fast and give alms. Don’t worry if you have never done this before; ask God to provide the opportunities that you need to practice your faith.
Never give up.
Just as we make New Year’s resolutions on January 1, we also make resolutions on Ash Wednesday to give something up or do something extra during Lent. However, whereas New Year’s resolutions focus on our needs and wants, our Lenten resolutions focus on the needs of others through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Halfway through Lent you might be tempted to give up your morning prayer ritual, or you might break your fast. Remember that Lent is not an all-or-nothing affair. Sometimes the Christian journey is like falling down six times but rising seven times. If you have a bad day and don’t practice your Lenten resolutions, you can start again right at that moment. Never give up; trust God.
Lent is a busy season. Give yourself a “time out” by spending time in silence every day. This should be a time when you sit with God and listen to what God is saying. You can do a little spiritual reading during this time and practice lectio divina, the ancient art of reading the Scriptures. Prayer is never wasted time; it always leads to renewed focus and energy. Remember the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who tells us that, “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.” When you put the Lord first in prayer, you will find your days surprised with many graces, especially during the Lenten season.
May these four keys, L-E-N-T, surprise you with the peace of a renewed heart for the Lord. Do you have some favorite ways to prepare for Lent? If so, please share them in the comments.