As the calendar turned to February, I found myself really looking forward to Lent this year. That’s a new feeling. In the past, I’ve appreciated Lent, understood its significance, and even learned something… but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it or looked forward to it in any way. My perfectionism always got the best of me, and I think I looked at fasting as another opportunity to mess up something important.
I’m experiencing a shift this year. It may be small, but it feels dramatic. My usual achievement-driven and perfectionist anxiety is absent. We are about one week into the Lenten season, and the predominant feeling I’m experiencing is peace. As I think about my fast and other practices I’m trying to incorporate right now, a slight smile crosses my lips. I feel free and joyful. I haven’t done them perfectly–I’m behind on my Bible reading, and I kinda cheated on my fast the other day. Still, the joy persists.
On the most recent episode of the Sacred Ordinary Days podcast, Jenn and Lacy talked about different ways to approach and think about the Lenten season. (First of all, did you know that the word “Lent” actually means “springtime”? I love that so much!) A lot of what they shared was new to me, and I loved it.
They suggested approaching Lent with curiosity. When I approach a fast with curiosity, I’m no longer just trying to break a bad habit or become more spiritually mature. Instead, I’m now asking, “What will my life look like without this certain thing?” With curiosity as my greatest motivator, that question goes from being whiny and discouraging to hopeful. I am daring to imagine that I can use my time, energy, and emotions towards bigger and better things.
They also talked quite a bit about how fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (the three primary practices associated with the Lenten season) can help us lean further into our true selves by stripping away the parts of our identity that don’t belong. A few months ago, I told my small group that while I understood (in theory) that I should place my identity in Christ, I wasn’t sure exactly HOW to do that. Maybe this is part of it: an intentional stripping away of the things in which I put my identity that don’t match up with my authentic self, with the person God’s calling me to be.
It sounds lofty and even a bit confusing, and it is. But I’m considering it.
So, here’s to Lent: a time to get curious, a time to become more fully ourselves, a time to imagine what our lives could be with fewer distractions. A time to turn off, turn away, and then turn around to face Jesus, our crucified and risen King.