Ash Wednesday: The Gift of Lent

ash wednesday lent spiritual disciplines Feb 13, 2018

Today is Ash Wednesday. It's the first day of Lent. For years, that would have been completely lost on me. “What in the world is Ash Wednesday?” Most Baptists like me back in the day would have seen it as a “them” practice. Definitely not for “us.”

But now I am an Anglican. Next month, Lord willing, I’ll complete my ordination process and become an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others under Bishop Todd Hunter. This has become such a grace-filled home for both my soul and my work. And Anglicans definitely practice Ash Wednesday and Lent!

My Lenten Practice

So, as I have been thinking about my Lenten practice, I’ve come across one that I think is right for me this year. Both Gem and I are going to spend our evenings after dinner completely electronic media free. That means we’ll let the television, our computers, our smart phones and any other powered devices take a break each evening over the forty days of Lent right along with us.

How do I know that it’s the right choice for this Lent? Because I can hear a whiny little voice inside of me saying, “What will you do with yourself if you can’t watch television, or check social media, or look at email, or, or, or…” That nervous voice inside of me is nearly always a sign that I’ve touched a nerve in me that must die.

That sounds a little dramatic, but it’s real to me. As long as I allow that addictive little voice in me to sit behind the wheel of my life, I’m right back to imagining that “mind-numbing escape” and “true spiritual rest” are really just about the same thing. I wrote about this in An Unhurried Life. And I’m still in recovery with the more-than-occasional lapse.

Instead of media in the evening, Gem and I will visit with each other. Or read a book. Or sit outside and enjoy the evening (weather-permitting). Or play a board or card game together. Or even get to bed early for a change. It doesn’t actually sound that bad, does it? Maybe I’m not giving up all that much!

A Little No, A Bigger Yes

What we say “No” to in Lent is not about missing out on something good. It’s really about opening up space to remember what is truly and more deeply good.

I could choose some form of fasting for Lent. I could decide to fast a certain day or two each week. I would do this not to prove something about my heroic spirituality or self-discipline. I would do this to learn the wisdom of Jesus: I do not live mainly by the bread I eat. I live mainly because of my communion with God. The absence of bread has a way of highlighting the presence of God.

I could choose to give up hurry for Lent. I would do this not to be less productive for forty days. I could make this choice so that I can remember that “getting things done” and “bearing much fruit” are not always the same thing. Slowing down to the pace of love instead of the pace of greed, the pace of peace instead of the pace of anxiety, the pace of joy instead of the pace of excitement and over-stimulation just might prove to be an abundant life for me.

The “No” we say in Lent makes room for a bigger “Yes” to God along the way.

So, when I say No in the evenings to my favorite show, or to staying in touch with who is doing what on social media, what am I avoiding? I’ll likely be saying “No” to escaping my life. Or I’ll say “No” to checking for “likes” of one of my social media posts that feels like needed recognition from others. I just might discover, as I refrain from all of that “checking,” the voice of the One Who calls me his beloved coming through a bit more clearly. I might just find some real rest for my soul.

For Reflection

As Ash Wednesday is upon us, have you thought about a fitting practice for you in Lent this year? What little “No” might you say so as to open up space for a heartier, freer “Yes” to God’s goodness, beauty and truth?

I’d love it if you responded to this post and let me know your Lenten plans.