Lent is my favorite season of the Liturgical year. I love it for a lot of reasons. For one, I’m secretly a melancholy girl full of laments. I connect to the idea of a season that’s not about celebration but about ashes, confession, and removing a little of our cultural addiction to ease so that we can recognize how much our comfortableness makes us unaware of our need for a savior. I love the liturgical beauty of entering in to these forty days of sacrifice, examination and renewal with (almost) the entire body of Christian faith around the world. I love that despite the Church’s incredibly dynamic and (often problematic) issues of doctrine and discord (see #RobBell), we can be brought together under a belief that we are needy, imperfect, and desperate for a God who will come to us.
Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday, an ancient tradition of taking the whole idea of “repenting in dust and ashes” literally. We mark ourselves as weak, as people who come from dust and will return to dust, as people who need God’s love. It’s my favorite service of the year because there is nothing more powerful than being reminded of my mortality, my failure to live up to perfection, and my need for Jesus.
I confess that I usually come into the season of Lent more prepared. This year, Ash Wednesday is two days before my due date. My mind has been much more consumed with washing baby clothes and planning for delivery than it has with what I will choose as a spiritual practice over the next forty days. Yesterday, I told my husband that for Lent I will be giving up full nights of sleep and all rights to my body. (Nursing a newborn is the ultimate in spiritual practice.)
In the past I’ve given up dark chocolate (my favorite!), coffee (my other favorite), and television. This year I am going to need each of those lovlies to survive my baby’s first forty days.
Last year I added in a daily Review of Conscience, a beautiful practice of allowing God to show you the past day: the ways you responded to God, the ways you refused God, and the state of your heart. This year, I have no pressure on myself. Only this: I long for these first weeks of my second child’s life to be full of prayer. Despite my physical exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy (how am I going to raise two kids at once?!), and (I’m sure) lack of time for any thing that that is not sleep, food, or keeping my children alive, my hope is that in my weakness God will remind me constantly of my need for him.
Throughout Lent, Morning Prayer II in the Book of Common Prayer leads us into a statement of truth, one that I hope will be my invitation for these forty days: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.”
What about you? As Lent draws near, what is your plan for spiritual practice?