I turn on my computer and a notification slides into the top right corner, “storage almost full”. I go to take a photo with my phone, “storage full”! I go to buy a coffee, and the machine says, “insufficient funds”. Okay, not really, but there have been seasons in my life, more often than I’d like to admit, when I have gone so long and so hard that I feel completely maxed out. Often it happens gradually and without notice: adding expenses, storing up documents, downloads and photographs and filling every blank square on my calendar. Then, before I know it, I wake up one morning in a deficit of time, money and soul capacity.
Lent is a time when we make space. We clear out the clutter, the unnecessary expenditures, the habits, and indulgences that we let slip once, twice or ten times. Lent is when we re-orientate ourselves to the cross and let go of anything that is competing for first place in our hearts and our minds. I love the season of Lent. It is a chance to let the dust settle and to take inventory as we journey to the cross.
Many people give something up during Lent. My husband, for example, is giving up Twitter for the next 40 days (not including Sundays, which forms the duration of Lent). The new screen time app on Apple devices makes our addiction to technology all the more glaring. Some people don’t eat sugar or another food that they find themselves particularly addicted to, but I, myself could never do this because I would worry it would be for my own vanity as opposed to penitence.
I often like to add something instead. I realise this sounds counterproductive, but if I count the practice a priority, other things fall to the wayside naturally. This year, I’m committing to morning and evening prayer. In education, we talk about how where you begin and end your day is where you belong. I love this. I love it for Ella, as we navigate inclusive education and I love the picture it paints in my own life. I belong to God. When I start my day, he is there. When I rest my head on the pillow, he is there.
I have often envied, or perhaps just marveled, at the dedication and faithfulness of Muslims. They pray five times a day as a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship and yet, even the most devout Christians I know, take time out twice a day at best to pray. There is something powerful about the gathering of community to pray prayers that have been around for centuries. One line that is repeated over and over in morning prayer is,
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Sprit; as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.”
I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but in my own life, having a personality type that is deeply traditional and loyal, it is important for me to be intentional about my faith and spiritual discipline.
It seems everyone knows what pancake day is, but Lent is like spring cleaning for the heart and soul after the Mardi Gras party. So or those of you who do observe Lent, happy cleaning and for those of you who give up Facebook – see you in 40 days.