Why Lent? I think about this every year. Lent is not the most exciting season on the church calendar. We don’t throw parties for Lent and no one buys another a Lenten gift, so it seems to lack the luster of other seasons of the church. Heck, even the church’s Ordinary season beats taking time to reflect on our sins.
“Lent is a solemn observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday (this year, February 14th) marks the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, the palm branches from Palm Sunday of the previous year are burned and the ashes are placed on the foreheads of Christians as a sign of repentance.
The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. It is commemorated during Holy Week, recalling the events beginning on Palm Sunday, to Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday, and leading to the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday.
During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God.
Lent lasts for forty days (really 46 days, but Sundays are not counted), following the forty days Jesus spent fasting and being tempted before his public ministry.” *
Lent sneaks up on us and then we find ourselves rushing to either give up chocolate or add a devotional to our schedules. This year, I’d like to suggest something different. Something so easy, we find ourselves doing it all the time. Breathe. I’ve been participating in a mindfulness online seminar through the denomination and combined that with my limited amount of yoga (I’m horrible at it, not as flexible as I need to be), and the consensus seems to be that we don’t take our breath seriously. Yes, we breathe. We do it automatically and without thinking. Yet, I notice that when I take a moment to just catch my breath, when I take a deep breath, when I pause for a moment at my desk, before I get out of bed, prior to going to bed, in a meeting, or even moments before I deliver a sermon, two things happen.
First, I feel the calming presence of the Holy Spirit get a foot in the door to my crowded mind. I may shut that door quickly or have things still come at me, but for a moment, I’m reminded when I breathe that God is with me. Second, I can be more present. A variety of needs or tasks hit my desk at the same time? A good deep breath helps me to focus on what needs to get done or at least keeps my mind from shutting down with worry. A difficult situation has occurred or is on the horizon? A minute to breath deeply helps me to be mindful of my worth and going back to point number one, realize God loves me, just as I am. Ever wonder why there is a pause before I lead prayers on Sunday? I’m breathing to open my heart to God and calm my mind so that I can pray.
For me, 2017 ended fast and 2018 has not stopped. There are a lot of exciting things going on and our church can pick up the pace just as easily. My Lenten goal, as simple as it seems, is to breathe. Yes, I want to streamline my sugar intake and read a new devotional, but those won’t happen if my mind is scattered. I want to be present during Lent, I want to experience being human, and all the moments God is present, but I may not be unless I am mindful. I’m going to breathe to set the tone for my Lenten journey. No matter what you do, even if nothing, I hope that you breathe, that you would be open to the love of God which is steadfast, and that you would deepen your faith through the study of scripture, prayer, and worship.
*This section is taken from a compilation of information from the internet and books on my shelf.