“Forced” Lent?

Lent. A time for believers to prepare for Easter. It is a time when many deny themselves certain pleasures or practices in remembrance of how Jesus denied himself and gave his life for us. Some spend more time in prayer. Some give to  those in need. Others use Lent as a time of repentance and renewal to follow Jesus more intimately. For most, observing Lent involves some kind of self-denial or sacrifice. This year Lent is observed Feb 26 – Saturday, April 11, Easter being April 12th.

I confess, I do not always observe the season of Lent. As a child I believed my sacrifice and/or good works were a means to gain God’s approval. This was deeply ingrained in how I viewed God and related to Him. Once I understood God’s unconditional love, I did not want to follow practices that might reinforce or rekindle my legalistic past. However, I wonder if   Lent might be calling me to something different: not sacrifice to earn God’s love but to pay attention to what I’m paying attention to.

The timing of this global pandemic hits the U.S. now, during Lent. As leaders rolled out more restrictions daily, I viscerally felt unrest growing inside me.  Being encouraged to stay home, maintain social distancing, and curb all activities that are not vital to life itself (groceries or medical emergencies), we are all forced to give up our normal way of life. We are being asked to sacrifice on behalf of the greater good, to care for and educate our children, work from home, and remember to care for the most vulnerable among and around us.

This “forced Lent,” if you will, has exposed many things normally hidden deep within my heart. When asked to deny myself for the good of others, I quickly noticed how much I enjoy my independence, my freedom to come and go and make my own decisions. I am noticing how many things in life I blindly do or pass by and take for granted every single day.

In this world crisis, we are all grieving what we have lost – comfort, safety, security, community, income, childcare, public services, etc. As we grieve, we must also mourn. We must get what’s inside (feelings of grief) outside (mourning). If we are not honest with God and ourselves of what is churning within us during this time, anxiety and fear are crouching at the door to consume us.

Please pray for our daughter Jessica – due Apr 13. Tough time to need a hospital, and so disappointing that we cannot be there to welcome our first grand baby. We are taking all precautions to be germ free in order to help once they go home. Life is a bit upside down for all.

GRIEF

As I wrestle with these ever-changing external circumstances, grief reminds me this is hard. I don’t like this!!! Grief is inviting me to notice and process what is happening internally. If you are feeling “stuck” swirling in your fear, worry, frustration, anger, etc., perhaps these questions may help you tap into your grief as well. My encouragement – take some time each day to:

Notice what you’re Noticing

  • What are you doing currently, or tempted to do, to “prepare” or be “ready” for the long haul?
  • What do you find yourself resisting?
  • What do you find yourself judging?
  • What do you find yourself fearing?
  • What do you find yourself fixating on or asking?
  • What is important to you right now?

Noticing, giving attention to, and expressing our grief, even just a few moments each day, allows for movement in your grief. You may want to journal, talk to someone, or express your grief through exercise, art or music. It may help you get unstuck in this time of “forced lent / sacrifice.” Being honest with yourself and God may then open your heart to receive comfort from Him and through others. Invite God into your grief, your mess, your uncertainty, or whatever state you may find yourself.  You will find a compassionate companion for He knows  deep pain and knows you.