Preparing for Lent

The winter months can be hard. Especially THESE winter months – when did Colorado turn into northern Wisconsin? I grew up in Colorado before spending 20 years in Philly (go Eagles, by the way). I don’t remember winters being this relentless, this constantly cold, this icy, or this tiring. Yes, this winter has been a grind, and it’s the time of year when we ALL start to feel a little bit depleted.

And of course in our Liturgical Church year, we are just coming up on Lent, a time of deep introspection. And I think Lent might feel a little bit harder this year. As we come out of our pandemic isolation, as we come back together, as we collectively breathe out, Lent can feel, well, almost a little re-traumatizing.

The traditional practices of “giving something up” for Lent might even feel a little laughable after 3 pandemic years. Honestly, what HAVEN’T we given up over these years? So I want to propose a different kind of approach to Lent, one that I have used in the past, and one that our families, children and youth might find a little more affirming this year.

Start with two questions:

  1. What do I want to let go of? What is something I’m still holding onto that I don’t need any longer?
  2. With the energy that is freed inside of me by letting go of this thing, what would I like to start building?

Some examples might be, “I want to give up arguing with my brother”, or if you’re a bit older, “I want to give up jealousy toward peers when I think they’re doing something better than me”. And then figure out what you would like to start building instead. Instead of arguing with your brother, perhaps you commit to one act of kindness toward him everyday. Instead of ruminating on feeling jealous, break that thought pattern by congratulating that person on their success to build up your own ability to feel happy for them.

This is something that can be done as a family, as well. You might think of one or two things that you, as a family, want to let go of, and then each of you can choose ONE simple affirmative action you can take each day to build something new in its place. After all, our tradition of Lent comes from Jesus 40 days in the dessert. Jesus certainly does a lot of renouncing in the dessert – fasting, turning down Satan’s offers of worldly power, and so on. But what can easily be missed is that this is his moment of clearing out the space for what is TO COME. This is the moment in which he clears out the foundation so that he is open and free inside, ready to begin building his Gospel.

So start thinking about what you would like to let go of in Lent, and what you would like to build in its place. Amen.

Posted in Children and Youth Ministry.