Tomorrow marks the start of Lent, a forty-day period where people across the globe take an opportunity to give something up or give something back.
What is Lent?
Lent is a season of forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 1st this year) and concluding on Easter weekend.
For Christians the season recalls the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness enduring and overcoming temptation, preparing to begin his ministry, and choosing the path of self-sacrifice and obedience to God. Just as Advent is traditionally a time to spiritually prepare for Christmas, so Lent affords us an opportunity to take time to reflect and to spiritually prepare for Easter. Christians have traditionally made this preparation through practices of self-examination, reflection, repentance and fasting.
Today this often takes the form of Christians giving up something they enjoy, or giving up a vice, in order to share in Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness as a form of spiritual self discipline; and to make room for more prayer, worship or bible study and meditation with the aim of growing closer to Jesus and becoming more like him, as well as sharing the journey to the cross with him to understand more about who he is and what he has done for us.
Many people observe Lent as a time of self-denial and self-giving, by volunteering their time and giving of themselves for others, or giving monetary gifts to help fund things like charity projects. And all sorts of people can benefit – and do benefit - from celebrating Lent. It’s a time to explore, to take stock of our lives and the state of our hearts, to confront the human condition and the state of the world, and stand in solidarity with all those who suffer. There is no set way of ‘doing Lent’, though traditionally practices revolve around fasting (which can include specific fast days, or particular foods, or even taking a break from shopping or TV or social media). It also often includes the giving of ourselves, our time and money in service of others, self-reflection, reading and praying and meditating.
Lent is an opportunity for contemplation, an adventure of the spirit, a journey of discovery. Why not join in and take your own Lent journey this year?
What could you do this Lent? Here are some ideas…
- Each day of Lent, remove one item from your house that you no longer wear or need and put into a bag. At the end of the forty days, donate these items to a charity shop!
- Use a skill you have and teach it to others, e.g. provide free singing lessons, teach people photography or share your knowledge of a language
- Unplug from your phone and computer in the evenings, leaving space to read a book, reflect on the day and spend quality time with those around you
- Give up a spending habit like coffee or chocolate and donate the amount you’d spend to charity
- Get out of your comfort zone, sign up for a Challenge Event and train every day
- Write a note of encouragement to forty different people each day
- Follow Lent resources on 40 acts - Take a lunchtime walk every day
- Start a diary and write your reflections of each day
- Read a book to help your devotions e.g. Rick Warren’s ‘Forty days of purpose’ or Tom Wright’s ‘Luke for Lent’ or Ann Voskamp’s ‘The broken way’
Blog by Major Joanne Reid, Chaplain in The Salvation Army's Spiritual Life Development Team