The calendar turns to March and we begin the season of Lent. The season is defined by the 40 weekdays leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the culminating, joyful day of Easter. The mood of the season’s supposed to be quiet and contemplative, filled with prayer, devotion, quiet reflection on Christ’s sacrifice, our relationship with Christ, and the reasons we require relying on Christ’s saving grace if we are to gain heaven.
Increasingly, however, it seems the season of Lent has lost that tone and purpose. People’s lives are so filled with so many things, there’s little time to slow down and think on Christ. It’s reflected in how we’re challenged to carve out time for personal devotion and prayer each day.
That reality is also reflected in the number of congregations who no longer offer mid-week Lenten worship services—people have a hard time carving out another hour in the week to gather to adore, and pray to God and thank God for his love for us.
And because these super-busy schedules appear to be our new reality, there’s a greater chance for our lives to get out of whack as life is filled up with more work to finish, sports to play, internet to explore, texts to send, requirements to fulfill.
So this Lent—every Lent—I encourage you to be a rebel. Be an unapologetic Christian who makes the choice to re-prioritize life where Christ is restored to his “Number One” place on the list of life’s priorities. Establish a Lenten discipline that leads you to a deepening spirituality–one that draws you closer to Christ and sets life back on a track that revitalizes or expands your appreciation for the One who gave his life so we might live forever.
One of my friends from seminary, Carlos Wilton, once wrote that these kinds of Lenten disciplines can be wonderful time spent because they restore balance to our lives. Yes, they might be hard to stick to. Sure, we might break a spiritual discipline rule along the way—we don’t get to our Bible reading and prayers for a day or two—but it need not be a reason to give up on our quest to reinvigorate our relationship with Christ. He wrote:
The Eskimos know all about balance. They practice it every time they venture out into freezing Arctic waters in one of their little boats.
Have you ever tried to paddle a kayak? If you have, you know how easy they are to tip. The advantage of kayaks, though, is that as easy as they are to tip, they’re just as easy to right. An expert kayaker can tip completely over, hanging head downward — and then, with a quick twist of the paddle, turn the boat back upright again.
That isn’t a bad image for Lent. Whatever spiritual disciplines you adopt, these 40 days are a time of shedding baggage, of getting back to basics in our spiritual life. Eventually, we are to be like Eskimos in their kayaks: just us against the waves, with only our paddle and a tippy little boat to keep us safe.
If you capsize, though — if you succumb to temptation — it’s no biggie. One of the lessons of Lent is that, as long as we’re traveling light, it takes only a quick twist of the paddle to right us. So don’t get worried if your spiritual discipline fails. Just get yourself upright, and start all over again.
My prayer for all of us is that in these days of Lent, we seize opportunities to return to Christ. Be it worshiping, joining a prayer group, engaging in service opportunities, denying yourself of some special treat, may it be one that touches your soul, sets your eyes on Christ and encourages you in your journey of discipleship.