Every year as March approaches I begin to think about what Lent will leave room for this year. There is something so powerfully freeing about quitting something to make room for a new thing.
I started practicing Lent in high school with my best friend Ellen. Neither of us were raised Catholic, but we were always up for a challenge. And we never passed up an opportunity to deepen our bond of friendship.
If you don’t know what Lent is, Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. This year Lent began on Wednesday February 18th, and will end on Thursday April 2nd.
My first few seasons of practicing Lent consisted of giving up Myspace (I was 15), then donuts, then McDonalds, then complaining, then eating after 9:00 pm, then hair stylers (curlers/straighteners), and then make-up…
Into my college years I sensed an urge to add something in place of the thing given up. My Junior year in college I gave up make-up, in addition to writing one thank you note each day to someone that has impacted my life for better. You can read about that post here. The writing of these letters increased my faith as I received response letters from many of the people I wrote to. These letters filled me with an urge to spread thanksgiving everywhere without hesitation. So often we forget to thank people for the roles they have served in our lives. This practice of writing thank you notes fostered an urgency to express thankfulness outwardly. We can love people better through our thanksgiving. In the words of Ann Voskamp, “Thanksgiving always proceeds the miracle.”
Last year I felt a strong urge to do something very specific for Lent. “Lent Letter’s” is what I called it. What can I say, I got a thing for letters;) But the letters were not thank you notes, but prayers. And they were written to complete strangers, and the best of friends. I posted to my IG stating that the first 40 people to e-mail me their mailing address would receive a prayer letter at some point during Lent. I was in shock as I read some of the addresses, Canada, New York, Alaska, Brazil… I listed out the first 40 names and addresses, and each day I would sit in silence waiting on the Lord to guide me in prayer for my friends, and the people I had never even met. One girl wrote me asking if I would write a letter to her friend. The friend had no idea what was coming for her, and then all the sudden she received a letter marked with rep lipstick containing a prayer from me (a stranger). My heart was full of praise as God responded to these letters.
A few weeks ago I got the text from Ellen. “So what are you giving up for Lent this year?” Hmm… I thought it really snuck up on me this year. A few ideas skipped across my brain but nothing compelling enough. I asked Ellen what she was thinking. Her response, “something to do with listening…” And there it was. The Lord speaking through Ellen to get to me. The fact that He had to go through Ellen to get to me, proved my failure to carve out time to listen to the Lord.
And so, this year, I’m committing to listen to God. Every day I’m spending 15 minutes in silence. No social media, no music, no work, no chaos, no reading, no phone calls, not even prayer. Just silence. Each day I begin this time by asking God, “What are you saying to me today?”
In addition, I’ve also decided to fast and pray on Wednesdays. The Lord has always given me strong urges and clear guidance during my times of prayer and fasting. In my life it has been a tool for listening to God.
I will confess, this practice of quitting a rhythmic habit, and remembering to prioritize my 15 minutes of silence, has come with its shortcomings. I fail, but I am reminded of God’s grace. This grace that motivates me to depend on Him more than my own disciple, hard-work, and perseverance.
What are you giving up for Lent this year?