We are now in Lent, a time of reflection to draw us nearer to God. We remember Jesus going into the desert, being tempted by all of sorts of things and ably resting as he focused totally on God.
For many, Lent can seem a time of solemnity, self-denial and even a bit miserable. If this is what Lent has become for us, let's change our outlook this year. Lent is not about pointlessly giving something up to make ourselves unnecessarily unhappy. It is not about reminding ourselves each year of a specific time we made a certain mistake which we continually beat ourselves up about. It is not even about simply making ourselves feeling guilty because we do not give enough time to God.
Lent is about growing closer to God and deepening our relationship with God, which often involves contemplating our own understanding of ourselves. In starting Lent with Ash Wednesday and remembering our time on this earth is limited, Lent is about considering how we can make ourselves holier in the time we have here -So bringing ourselves more in line with God's values, which will impact God's people and ourselves. We might be scared at the impossible prospect of being holier, but if we aim to be healthier (in our relationships, prayer life and personally), we will be holier, as well as happier. So, if we give the time in Lent for self-reflection -looking at our past mistakes, the things we have neglected, and the times we have not put God first, this should ultimately be (though perhaps difficult at times), liberating, life affirming and bring us closer to God and God's people.
For example, giving more time to pray will draw you closer to God. So, if this is what you realise you need to do, instead of just feeling guilty about the times you have not prayed, consider how you might make more time for prayer -whether this means coming to church more regularly, adding a daily prayer routine into your life, going on more walks to pray, downloading an App to remind you to pray, etc., then give the time in Lent to setting up this new pattern.
It might not be your relationship with God you are struggling with, remember Jesus tells us the greatest command is to love others as we love ourselves. Maybe this Lent you need to work on loving others. If so, consider how this could be done practically -could you start volunteering, maybe you need to apologize to someone or make amends, or do you need to spend more time with your family, etc.
Or possibly the area you are struggling with is loving yourself. If so, spend time thinking about your own self-care and what steps you can put into place to make sure you look after yourself properly as God would like -perhaps you could finally start that hobby you have been longing to do but putting off with the busyness of life, maybe you need to eat healthier or drink less alcohol, perhaps it is accepting that help you have been offered, or booking a break might even be what you need, etc.
This a more positive way to spend Lent, rather than worrying, feeling bad and making no, or little, changes. You will also benefit by feeling better, as well as being drawn closer to God.
Lent does not need to be miserable. It is about bringing us closer to God, God's love and a loving way of being, which ultimately will move us away from darkness and sin. It is about remembering what is important in life, and what, at the end of the day, is not. It is about reassessing how we live our daily lives with this knowledge. If we get it right, we are on our way to being closer to God and God's Kingdom.
With all best wishes and prayers,
Prayer for the month:
give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.