The season of Lent begins today. Sadly, because of the crazy weather impacting East Tennessee, Ash Wednesday services at St. John’s Lutheran Church were postponed. Perhaps we will be observing Ash Sunday this year.
I love many things about the Lutheran church, but I think I’m especially fond of the seasons of worship: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Pentacost. To me, Easter is far more meaningful and personally impactful because of the six weeks of Lenten observance that precedes it.
Lent is a season of prayer, penance, repentance, giving, atonement and self-denial, often expressed through the practice of “giving something up.” By the looks of my social media feeds, people I know are giving up everything from chocolate to alcohol to use of social media. All of which is great, especially if, in the process of giving something up, the observer uses the opportunity to strengthen his or her relationship with Christ.
Doesn’t that sound like a lecture?
From my own experience, though, I’ve done 40-day fasts (giving up all forms of solid food) and foregone the requisite sweets or carbs, only to ultimately be practicing a form of Biggest Loser: Jesus Edition or New Year’s Resolution: The Reboot. Neither is very intentional or meaningful in the end.
Rather than give something up, I’ve come to prefer taking something on. Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken to writing a note a day to someone in my life.
Dropping an unexpected handwritten note in the mail to someone I care about is meaningful for both of us (all of us?), I think. I know I enjoy receiving handwritten notes, and I enjoy writing them too.
For me, it’s about so much more than the tangible item that results. There’s a whole process involved: Praying for the person to whom I’m writing, recalling and reflecing on moments or actions from our relationship, letting my heart feel the gratitude for those moments and our relationship, then writing the note. The process takes at least 15 minutes, and helps me feel closer to the person to whom I’m writing. It’s an intentional process, and my hope is that I don’t take for granted my relationship with the recipient.
I encourage everyone to practice taking something on this Lenten season. Or, take something on AND give something up. Regardless, I pray this is a meaningful season for all of us.