The other day, when I mentioned to a friend that I was beginning to write the 40 Days of Prayer associated with the season of Lent, he said, “I didn’t know you were Catholic!” I told him I wasn’t and then explained why I championed this ritual, or tradition, and even though it’s not mentioned in the Bible, it is an integral part of my preparation for Easter.
How often do you arrive home after your daily commute and not remember how you got there? Did you hit mostly green lights or red ones? Do you even remember stopping at a light? Did you notice the people in the cars next to you? What about the businesses you passed along the way? The reality is that so often we find ourselves on auto-pilot once we get into familiar surroundings; we just don’t notice anything, with the possible exception of traffic or unexpected delays.
The opposite is true, though, if you move away and then go back to your old neighborhood. You pay attention to everything on the drive “home.” You notice the colors of the trees, the flowers, and the houses. You notice businesses and restaurants you frequented. You take note of new buildings and businesses, any changes in the landscape. Familiar faces bring back memories, and new people make you realize things have changed. Your senses are heightened because what was routine is new again.
That’s what Lent is. It’s more than a way to experience the days of late winter and early spring each year—it’s a way to experience them in a more meaningful way. We are headed toward Easter, the day that signifies the majesty of our faith, and we should do it with purpose. We have common practices that help us do that, often referred to as spiritual disciplines. Basically, they are means to help us notice the colors and sounds, to hold captive our thoughts as we come closer to Jesus.
In the first four days, we will experience fasting, and embrace a mindset and lifestyle of simplicity. We can achieve this by eliminating cravings, time-hogging activities, luxuries, and distractions, as well as decluttering both our minds and living spaces as a means to make room for time with God. While fasting, our desires for whatever we’ve eliminated from our lives will remind us of the Lord’s provision in our lives and his sacrifice for us; we will find power and nourishment in God’s Word. In simplicity, we will find margin in our time and our homes where the Holy Spirit can take up residence to fill and fulfill us. In the dark days of Word War II, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “To be simple is to fix one’s eye solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted, and turned upside-down.”
Lent is a season of awareness, preparation, expansion, contrition, intention, and enrichment. You’ve lived these days of the calendar for as many years as you are old. This year, notice the seconds, the minutes, and hours that make up each one. Experience the fullness of what forty days with God offers.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8 NIV