Lent is upon us. As we enter this season, I’m seeking a more intentional experience for the next 40 days–a different approach than how many suggest Lent be navigated.
Typically, we kick off our observation by deciding what we’ll give up this year–sweets or coffee or some other vice we’ve come to love–because we’ve been taught to experience this season through that lens. We have big plans to make good on our Lenten promises, though we often fall short, as rigid restrictions only intensify our bad habits.
What if we reframed the way we approach Lent entirely? This year, as we’re facing countless pandemics together, what if we considered this season in a new way? As I consider this reframing myself, I continue to come back to an idea shared by theologian Karl Barth.
“Repent not because you must, but because you may.”
Viewing repentance as a gift invites us into a sense of self-examination that causes action: if God’s forgiveness at Easter is as transformational as we know it to be, I want to live differently.
I want to witness the power of this transformation through more than restrictive behaviors – I want–and I invite you to join me–in experiencing Lent in a way that cultivates whole person transformation.
This year, let’s see Lent as a time for renewed connections, commitment and intentionality. This is particularlyimportant in a time across our world where connection, love and belonging are in too short a supply. If we leaned deeper into connection with our neighbors and “gave up” despair and loneliness this year, how different would our communities look?
I’ve been reflecting on the verse 1 Timothy 6:19 that says, “…they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” I’m both challenged and incredibly encouraged by the idea to look inward and discover ways to live “life that is truly life.”
Driven by the goal to access that sense of abundant life, how does our world begin to change? We can certainly ask ourselves what we need to stop doing, to access this incredible life, though I think a more important question throughout the Lenten season is: What do we need to start doing to live into a more hopeful future?
Over the last two years, multiple pandemics have brought us to our knees. Each morning, we’re faced wondering what bad news the day will bring. When the world feels too dark and too broken to carry on, hope shines. Hope enables us to see clearly through our grief and lean into life-giving character. Hope enables us to discover ways to heal our past. To have hope is to embrace both the suffering of our world and the opportunity for a brighter tomorrow. We can make Lent a time to focus on being agents of hope in all we do and are.
As we begin Lent, I invite you to join me as we change our perspective. Instead of giving something up this year, what if you adopted practices of renewed commitment to that which is good, true and beautiful? Nurture an unlikely friendship, listen well and learn your neighbor’s story. Help someone believe in themselves more than they have before. Practice gratitude and reflect each day on the things that give life…life that is truly life.
I pray through this season that we become a more hopeful people, who foster community with our neighbors and commit to connectedness.