Lent is a season observed by many Christians, particularly those who belong to a more high church* denomination or order. And the season of Lent begins today, with Ash Wednesday. Although I did not grow up in a high church denomination the season of lent, and the practice of giving something up during this season, was something every year we as a family, and a church, observed. As a child I remember giving up things like Mt. Dew, television, and candy. Each year, to no avail, I would also always try to convince my mom that I needed to give up school.
Lent is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. The practice or discipline of giving something up during Lent is rooted in sacrifice and is a way for us to remember and participate (albeit in a small way) in the suffering of Christ. It is also a way in which we can make room in our lives for Jesus.
2020 felt like an entire year of Lent. There has been so much that has been sacrificed. In many ways it feels almost silly to “give up” something for Lent this year. In Dallas Willard’s book, “The Spirit of the Disciplines” he identifies 12 different spiritual disciplines for the Christian to practice as they grow in their faith. These spiritual disciplines of course are not unique to Willard, but what I have found unique to Willard’s list is that he organizes them as disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement.
Disciplines of Abstinence
Solitude, silence, fasting, sabbath, secrecy, and submission.
Disciplines of EngagementDallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Bible reading, worship, prayer, soul friendship, personal reflection, and service.
I feel like this past year has been a year full of abstinence. In many ways we have been forced into these practices and so as the season of Lent has arrived this year the idea of practicing more abstinence feels as if it could very well be the final tipping point for our own mental health. However, I do not want this season to pass us by without giving careful thought and attention to the life of Christ and the suffering and sacrifice he made for us.
And so, for this year, instead of giving something up for Lent I will be more intentional about adding to my life. I will look for ways in which I can serve others, I will be more intentional with my soul friendships and spending time with people whom I care about, and I will make bible reading, prayer, and worship a daily habit and will reflect each day on the love that Jesus has for me and the sacrifice he made so that I might be able to have abundant life.
Consider giving some intention to the spiritual disciplines of engagement this lenten season and look for ways in which you can add to your life rather than take away.
May God’s grace and peace be upon you this day.
* “High church” refers to the belief, or more accurately the practices, of religious liturgies, church services, and theologies that tend to emphasize more formalities.