A season of deprivation and anticipation for 40 days prior to Easter. Lent is a time of focus and expectancy. It is a tradition in Christianity to mark seasons and adjust our routines based on the calendar. I tend to have a long period of anticipation prior to Christmas as outside factors help remind me of what is coming. Retailers, advertisers, and list-making family members reinforce my anticipation for Christmas, but Lent to me is more personal, more introspective, more private. Lent is a time of internal preparation before the highest of holy days. There is much less external pressure to conform. No house decorations need be organized and few presents are purchased, but Christmas means nothing without Easter. Therefore, I celebrate Lent.
Many choose to go without and give up something dear, tasty, or expensive to train their hearts to be grateful with less. Chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and alcohol are among the Lenten sacrifices that I hear mentioned most often. Forfeiting something delicious can, if used properly, refocus your heart on the goodness in Christ. Every good gift comes from God above, therefore, longing for something good can remind us of God.
I’ve given up items in the past, but in more recent years, I’ve switched from subtracting something good to adding something good instead. I’ve added stillness, restfulness, or play. Every year I take stock of something needed in my life and concentrate on that for forty days.
This year I’ve added connection.
My life often feels like it is busting at the seams and barely being held together by frayed duct tape. I need to feel the support and love of others, or such a season is a long and lonely road. I need people. I need time with friends. I need moments of connection to balance my ever-growing to do list. This Lenten season, I am seeking to connect with others through cards or text messages or phone calls or lunch dates. Oftentimes I have just a few minutes before my class starts at night, but that is enough time to write a “just because” note to a loved one. On Ash Wednesday, I set out forty cards on my desk. My goal is that they would be written in and handed out by Easter.
This year, I hope to provide moments of connection for myself and for others. And that is the biggest difference in my experience between choosing to subtract for Lent versus choosing to add. In my experience, subtracting something good has challenged and stretched me, but adding something good has blessed me and others. My prayer is that such a goal would be true as we walk the valley of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday.
Do you celebrate Lent? What do you choose to subtract or add?