Its that time of year. We make lists of lenten foods to buy, we pull out our prayer ropes as we equip ourselves for the journey.
Yet, if you are like me, you can become overwhelmed by all the great ideas people have out there. You see beautiful arrangements, calendars, countdowns, icons. And you want to do it ALL. You hear words of wisdom and piety and want to BE that, to DO that. Almost immediately following the inspiration is one of two reactions- setting impossibly high goals for Lent, as if it were a trophy to win. Or, feeling guilty knowing that you can't do all you want to for Lent.
And that gong of guilt can ring and ring throughout the season, each time we fall, each time we forget what we should do. Guilt can deafen us to the real purpose of lent.
The purpose is to go back.
We go back to the Garden of Eden, where our ancestors had a perfect relationship with God. Where they lived with the animals, but didn't eat of them. Where their time was spent tending the garden, but not enslaved to labor. Where they conversed with God and each other in wholeness and intimacy.
We attempt to change some things in our lives now to reflect that time. We say no to distractions so we can say yes to communion.
If we do that, we have lived out the Lenten journey.
I have found that it is better to have small, realistic plans in which we can be consistent, rather than lofty ideas that end up fizzling out. Everyone is different, and especially as a family, there are many needs to consider. This year, I hope to:
- mark our lenten journey with a special candle and a calendar at our prayer corner.
- have lenten meals for me and my husband and lenten dinners for our whole family
- say the prayer of St. Ephrem each day (my boys love this!)
- reduce our TV watching (I am the worst of all at this!)
- only be on the computer when my boys are in bed
- read spiritually uplifting books
- volunteer at the local community center
It is hard, as we have been gone from the garden for so long. Our habits are entrenched and the world around us affirms the very vices we are trying to abandon. I often hear people saying they are looking forward to Lent, but I for one, sigh deeply as I look at the list above and begin what I know will be a difficult road.
But that is the grace of Lent. We are not traveling alone. If it were up to us, we couldn't take even the first step. But God himself is in us, accompanying us and guiding us. By His grace, we will walk in faithfulness back to the beginning.