Confession: I find it hard to stick with Lent. This designated season of introspection and redirection doesn’t align with nature’s seasonal changes — at least where I live.
Therefore, sticking with Lent for its full 40 days, with the addition of Sundays, can be a challenge. But then, it’s supposed to be it seems.
My preference would be to apply ashes and introspection to the darker, colder months that were just endured. The distractions are much fewer.
But now signs of new life, at least here in the southern U.S., are everywhere. And I’m feeling quite good about it.
Emerging blooms, warming sunshine and expanding daylight bring a brightness many of us have awaited since the first freeze of winter. So how do we not jump to Easter-like joy too quickly?
Since the liturgical calendar doesn’t adapt for geographical regions, the adjustment falls on us. And Lent isn’t designed to be easy, but worthwhile.
“It’s especially challenging in this particular year because most of us have been isolated for so long,” said John Pavlovitz, author of Rise: An Authentic Lenten Devotional (2022, Chalice Press), referencing the extended impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The discipline of using daily devotions is one means for staying focused on spiritual matters — helping us to retain our “year-round attention,” he said in an interview with Good Faith Media.
“I think it’s important to help people sustain their attention and energy — and that can be difficult this time of year,” he said. “…I wanted to write something people could use as part of the rhythm to help them focus their attention.”
Pavlovitz, a former pastor and now a writer and blogger with a huge social media following, said his own approach to observing Lent has changed quite a bit over the course of his life.
“It was a season that was very profound but very somber, and it was focused on guilt and sacrifice,” he said of growing up in a Roman Catholic home. Now he takes a longer view than before.
“As the years have gone on, I have embraced the more aspirational parts of Lent and the idea that there was hope coming,” he said. “So, it helps me at this time in my life to see that resurrection in many different ways.”
By doing so, Pavlovitz said, we can keep from being too overwhelmed by what we see and experience in the moment — a danger that “can allow what we see to overcome what we know.”
Staying aware of “the promise that there is something [better] coming … is so critical to have,” he said.
In addition to worship services and other Lenten experiences as part of congregational life, there are multiple resources available to help individuals stay engaged and focused throughout the six-week spiritual journey.
Online devotions like the daily “Journey to the Cross,” produced by Passport, Inc., can be helpful.
Two resources being used and shared this year by the First Baptist Church of Athens, Georgia, are available.
One is a weekday podcast called “Open to Explore,” in which church members share personal reflections on how the perspectives of Jesus intersect with their lives.
The second is a daily reading guide developed by Frank Granger, the church’s minister of Christian community. It is designed for use by either individuals or in small groups.
The guide is downloadable for free on the Good Faith Media bookstore. Both the podcast and reading guide relate to the book, Seeing with Jesus: Developing a Worldview Shaped by the Gospels by Jack Glasgow (2020, Nurturing Faith).
Honest engagement with others who are journeying toward the cross and ultimately to resurrection can make the weeks-long experience more intentional and meaningful.
The return of spring sports, a break from school, pollen and sunburn, shorts and sandals, birds and bumblebees can certainly demand our attention. Therefore, it takes a bit of discipline and devotion to stick with Lent to the end.
Doing so, however, can make the glory of Easter more glorious.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.