Lent is a wonderful season in the Church calendar – time set aside to renew and prepare ourselves to receive the fullness of life in the resurrection. It’s a time for a bit of a spiritual ‘spring-clean’. After all, the word ‘Lent’ means ‘springtime’. Just as a ‘spring-clean’ in our homes gives us a renewed sense of order and purpose, a spiritual spring-clean lifts our spirits, sweeps out the bad habits and creates space in our lives for God.
Giving up chocolate or other sweet indulgences is a traditional favourite for Lenten promises. However, in order for our Lenten commitments to really serve the purposes of Lent, it is better to approach what we ‘give up’ from the point of view of how giving it up frees us to more fully embrace life in Christ. It’s not deprivation for the sake of deprivation… it’s for the sake of greater love, more abundant life, deeper peace, more life-affirming joy. Think in terms of what you are embracing rather than what you are forgoing. For example, instead of ‘giving up’ sugar, I’m embracing a daily ritual of honouring God – every time I drink my sugarless tea, I am reminded to thank God for his love.
Lent is a great time to sweep our lives clean of any habit, attitude or practice that serves ourselves rather than God and those God sends us to love. Used well, Lent becomes something so rich in blessings that you will look forward to it year after year.
Spiritual Spring-Cleaning tips
- Missed the start of Lent? No bother – start whenever you can – even an imperfect attempt is better than none.
- Make a plan. Make it achievable. And write it down. Poorly defined goals tend to get lost in the clutter of life.
- Keep forgetting to honour your Lenten promise? Diarise it. Set the alarm on your phone. Put sticky notes on the bathroom mirror. Pen it on the back of your hand. Get an accountability partner (kids make excellent ones!)
- Regressed to bad habits? Just start over. Don’t let the evil one discourage you – recommit regularly to your Lenten promise.
- Struggling to stay motivated? Bolster your Lenten promise by offering it for an additional cause. e.g. the comfort of a sick friend, the suffering of a particular family, the work of a missionary etc.
Did you know?
The forty days of Lent, taken from the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, do not include Sundays – the day Christians celebrate the Resurrection. Forty is a symbolic number in the Hebrew scriptures: it signifies an irreversible event, something from which there is no turning back.
Top Ten Lenten Promises
Things to Surrender
- Grumpiness – irritability is a choice. We can choose to be grumpy and hang on to our right to be foul-tempered, or we can choose to be pleasant and good humored.
- Blame – when things go wrong, stop looking for a scapegoat. Practice acceptance and responsibility.
- Superiority – A judgmental attitude is like a rotting corpse – it spreads it’s bile over everyone in criticism and put downs.
- Gossip – resist taking delight in someone else’s failure. Protect their reputation and let the bad news stop with you.
- Vanity – give up self-obsession and the fantasy that the world revolves around you. Start revolving your life around God and you’ll find more joy than you ever dreamed.
- Self-pity – everyone has to deal with setbacks and disappointments. Self-pity won’t change your circumstances; it just makes you feel powerless.
- Resentment – unforgiveness and resentment hangs over a person’s life like dark thunder clouds. It makes your life gloomy and your presence unpleasant. It’s not worth the cost.
- Tiredness – if you’re always tired, go to bed early. Be self-disciplined and resist the TV, internet or other recreation that steals your sleep. And if you choose not to, then at least stop whining about how tired you are! (Parents of young children exempted!)
- Busyness – you have all the time you could ever need for the things that are important to you. Stop using a lack of time as an excuse for neglecting relationships or your health.
- Cynicism – it’s easier to be cynical than it is to be optimistic and hope-filled. Take the path less travelled.
Things to Embrace
- Tongue biting – practice restraint and humility. Let the criticism die in your month, let someone else speak first, give others space to voice their opinion.
- Early Rising – If your day is too busy for God, rise early to enjoy a few quite moments together.
- Half-serves – we really don’t need nearly as much food/clothing/music/TV/stuff as we think. Practice taking half serves and let hunger bite occasionally.
- Secret Giving – there are so many in need – be generous, then double it …and enjoy God’s blessings.
- Apologise – seek unity in all circumstances. Apologise when you have wronged someone… even when they started it!
- Forgive and let live – set yourself free. Forgive someone against whom you hold a grudge. Let them go. Let yourself go. And start living again.
- Gratitude – give thanks every day, all day. Thank God, thank others. Gratitude is one of the most effective ways to lift your spirit and increase your awareness of God’s presence.
- Blessing – bless those you love. Bless those you dislike. Bless those you envy. Bless God for the joys. Bless God for the sorrows. In all things, bless.
- Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) – nothing will inspire more delicious delight than doing an RAK – compliment a stranger, assist an elderly person, top up the parking meter, bring sunshine into someone’s life.
- Listen – stop talking and listen…to your spouse, to your children, to the lonely neighbour, to the homily, to the sounds of creation, to God’s word in your life.
Over to you! What do you do or have done in the past for Lent? Do give up the same thing every year? Do you try and maintain a good habit instead of giving something up? What do you do with your kids? Share with us in the comments below!
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