I’m not comfortable with Lent. But then I don’t think I’m supposed to be. If you were inventing a new religion, you would never say, ‘Hey! Let’s include a season of abstinence, deprivation, sacrifice and soul-searching. How about, ‘A guilt a day keeps the devil away’ as our strapline. That’ll bring ‘em in!’
It’s a time to feel bad about yourself, a time to kick yourself in the teeth, to give up those things which make the world go round, to don metaphorical sackcloth and ashes and sit alone in the desert for forty days gloomily contemplating just what a failure and little loser you are.
Or so I thought.
I didn’t grow up with Lent. I suppose Lent must have been happening in corners of the Christian church in the Sixties, but not in the little wooden hut where I sat, clutching my hymnal and my Bible and listening to stories of hellfire and damnation from the rostrum. We may have sung ‘Forty days and forty nights’ but I don’t remember it. Later in my teens when we rocked up in an evangelical Anglican church – so low it was practically bumping along the ground, we sang ‘Forty days and forty nights' to a zippy little number which sounded a bit like Chas and Dave. Even at thirteen I thought the music seemed just a tad at odds with the words…
‘Sunbeams scorching all the day (honkey-tonk piano),
Chilly dewdrops nightly spread (guitar strum),
Prowling beasts about thy way (drum riff),
Stones thy pillow (CYMBAL CRASH!!!), earth thy bed, tra-la-la-la-la-la-la.’
You may know it?
Now I want to observe Lent this year. I want to feel part of it because I don’t think I ever have. One year I gave up chocolate because that’s what everybody did, but caved in after three weeks when I didn’t feel God drawing any nearer and I was missing chocolate. Last year I gave up social media until we went into lockdown and I decided that life was damned tough enough without missing scrolling through Facebook and seeing how my mates were doing under house arrest. My record of Lent abstinence isn’t good. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty useless.
So I’ve been trawling for ideas. I sent a shout-out on Twitter, I emailed my brothers and sisters in the Third Order, I surfed t’internet wanting to know what others were doing. And I received some gracious and honest and fulsome answers. People are kind. But I have to say, if I’m truthful, that none of it really resonated with me. And then I had a verbal punch up with myself telling myself sternly that it was SUPPOSED to be hard, it was SUPPOSED to be tedious, it was SUPPOSED to ask something of you that you couldn’t give. You had to feel like giving up on day twenty-three but not actually do it.
That was the point of Lent.
Talk about setting yourself up for failure. Hah! I could certainly succeed at that.
But then I discovered another blog. It’s called ‘Godspace’ and it’s founded and faciliated by Christine Sine who seeks to ‘inspire readers to notice, explore and experiment with fresh ways to connect more intimately to God, more effectively to their neighbours and more responsibly to creation.’ Here’s the link. https://godspacelight.com/
I began to take notice.
There is a tendency when discovering something new – something that speaks to you - to want to do it all straightaway and burn yourself out before you’ve even got to the starting line. Or is that just me? So I cautioned myself to take it slowly, baby steps, tippy-toeing into the vast unchartable wildernesses of Lent.
And one thought from Lilly Lewin writing on ‘Godspace’ is that the idea of a Lenten Practice is 'to help you draw closer to Jesus and fall more in love with him between now and Easter Sunday.’
There's a thought!
I’ve told you before, I’m no theologian but I can sit with that very happily. And one idea of ‘Godspace’ is to create a playlist of music which helps Jesus feel nearer, and listen every day during Lent. As a very frustrated lockdowned choirgirl that feels like heaven.
I’m not sure where the sackcloth and ashes are at the moment. I have a lot to embrace. But, I told you before, baby steps. Bear with. I’m exploring as I go.
This is the beginning of my Lenten journey. I’ll let you know how I get on.
And if giving up chocolate helps me draw closer to Jesus, I’ll do that as well. Honestly.