Lent is the remembrance of and participation in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for 40 days before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).
The Lenten tradition calls us to consider those things we grasp too tightly in order to search for ways in which we might allow God to give us a renewed perspective about what’s truly important.
In addition to giving up certain things, for many people Lent is the call to take up something new.
Many of my friends and colleagues commit to praying, exercising and journaling more. Others decide to spend more deliberate time with friends or family members.
There are plenty of other options, but the primary point is that in addition to giving something up, we have the opportunity to invest in practices that bring fresh energy and quiet peace into our lives.
But despite the obvious practical benefits of giving up vices and taking up virtues, I’m more convinced than ever that Lent is not primarily about these actions.
Certainly, Lent calls us to examine our lives and what we consider important and valuable. In order to do that, however, we must first learn to pay attention.
Jude Siciliano, a Dominican preacher, writes, “Lent is a moment of grace to wake us up and call us to pay attention to our situation.”
Before considering what we should give up or what we should take up, we must first listen to our life.
Where am I on my spiritual journey? Are there practices or disciplines that could help me grow closer to God? How do I relate to others and how does that impact my life?
Where am I physically? How does what I eat and drink affect my productivity, mood and relationship with others? What brings me delight? Am I investing in things that sustain or drain life?
These kinds of questions help us discern where we might pray for God’s grace to enter our lives so that we can begin to live life on purpose.
Lent in an invitation to a more intentional life.
Instead of merely going through the motions, living from one moment to the next without any sort of purpose or reason, Lent invites us to consider each moment of our days and every second of our lives as an opportunity to encounter God.
Certainly, trying to find God every second of every day is a difficult undertaking, even for the most devout among us.
Yet the invitation to discover and encounter God never goes away. We are always summoned to look for God in the ordinary and mundane, for that is where God typically shows up.
The beauty of the Lenten journey, if we accept the invitation, is that it opens our eyes to see our world, our neighbors and even ourselves as we truly are.
When we slow down enough to listen to the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 17:12), we begin to discover the unforced rhythms of grace that strip away pretense, pride and envy.
We uncover the truth about who we are and who we are becoming. This allows us to live more fully into who God created us to be.
Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us, “The practice of paying attention is as simple as looking twice at people and things you might just as easily ignore. To see takes time, like having a friend takes time.”
Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Yet, we don’t happen upon the abundant life.
Like any relationship, it takes time and practice to grow in a relationship with God and our neighbors.
Lent supplies an excellent starting point for us to begin paying attention to our lives in order to live on purpose with the intention of loving God and our neighbors with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27).
All we have to do is courageously accept the invitation and begin the journey.