For many of my formative years, Lent didn’t really appear on the Christian calendar. It wasn’t really until moving south in 2003 that I got an idea of what it was about. And now, in 2017, I’m heading into Lent tomorrow with a great deal of anticipation. It will begin with ashes at my local Anglican church…
I am feeling a call to a deeper commitment to prayer, simplicity of living, and a general paring back. Why? Because I need it so much. It’s not that I just want to do this for Lent, but I have a sense that I need to carry some disciplines from Lent into the ‘normal’ Christian experience.
As the years have gone by, to be honest, we’ve had more and more disposable income to the extent that I can’t imagine now living on a Salvation Army officer allowance! Sure, we do things very differently and life is different, and we appreciate the blessing…I’m not complaining! It’s not to say that we’re flush with cash…but we’re no longer dependent on benefits from the government as we were before. But you know what? Having more money has taken us so far from simplicity, and that is something which I really value. There is a craving inside me for simple things and so Lent is a good opportunity to pare back and just become acquainted again with what is necessary…and what is not.
I also want to redress the balance of time when it comes to prayer, worship, engaging with the bible, spiritual reading, silence etc. It’s not that I don’t do these things as a regular part of the day and week, but Lent is an invitation to pare back commitments and distractions and engage even more.
And then there’s food. I love my food. We do, however, live in a world where people simply don’t eat. There are people who don’t have access to clean running water. Globalisation isn’t working for everyone…there are still many who miss out. And Lent gives an opportunity for solidarity with those who are poor, and even those in relative poverty in the UK. And so, I’m looking forward to a simpler diet and engaging in a little solidarity through prayer.
It went a bit against the grain to write about this. Some of me wonders if saying nothing about it is maybe a bit less likely to be construed as ‘spiritual pride’ – but that is not my intention in writing at all. What I really want to say is that I feel that I am entering a season where I recognise again that I have so much to learn about the Jesus path, and I am convinced he is going to walk with me as I walk with him in this period approaching the celebration of his passion, death and resurrection.
I am not looking for anything from God, as if my ‘Lenten fast’ will draw God’s attention to me and bless me more (I really don’t go by this theory of fasting). Rather, I’m drawn to celebrating discipline in a world where discipline is a bad word. I think, these days, these are the kind of things we need to talk about. I think we need to evaluate our lives of privilege. I also think we need to challenge ourselves now and again, and I realise at the moment that my life is pretty short on challenge by comparison to different days.
What am I saying? I can’t call people to discipleship if I’m not willing to be a disciple! I am looking forward to learning from Jesus and from what the Spirit will teach me. I’m hoping to spend longer understanding our Father’s heart. And I’m looking for a vision for Kingdom life. I know that you’re not support to look forward to Lent…but I am…!