The Additions of Lent
March 1, 2022 | Mary McCormack
When we think of Lent, we naturally think of a time to give things up so we can focus more on God. People give up a whole variety of things from chocolate to television. Self-denial certainly does get our attention! But we may forget that a powerful way we can draw closer to Christ is through adding things – things like setting our hearts to serve others quietly, delighting in God, living more simply, allowing God to search my heart, welcoming the stranger. These practices model Jesus’ own life and nudge us to live a bit less for ourselves and more for others.
Author Jan Johnson has written extensively on spiritual disciplines. Let me quote her here as she considers the value of these Lenten “add-ons”.
Delighting in God
Many people view God primarily as a problem solver, the Great Therapist in the Sky. When this is true, we use psalms to soothe ourselves in times of trouble. As we learn to love God for who God is, we enjoy God more. We learn the important skills of waiting on God, being still before God and delighting in God, meaning that we love God, are thrilled by God, and can’t keep our minds off God. Psalm 37 shows us concrete ways of trusting God: delighting, waiting and being still.
Unpretentious service is foreign to some traditionally religious people. We weigh, plan and program our service, self-conscious about how we look and what other people will think. In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, the man saw a need, took pity on the suffering man and put the guy on his donkey.
Letting God Search My Heart
When we think of confessing our sins to God, do we hope we will feel guilty enough to shape up? Do we try to shame ourselves to grow in God? What if confession was more about taking God’s extravagant grace seriously and His desire to bring me abundant life, not shame? How might focusing on God rather than me change my feelings about God searching me?
Welcoming and serving the outsider in respectful, loving ways is the boot camp of the discipline of community. We are so changed by this discipline that we find we more easily welcome folks who are not strangers too. We learn the essence of hospitality, welcoming people, not entertaining of impressing them.
As you consider what you might do to prepare yourself to embrace the joy of Easter, consider thinking more about what you can add than what you can give up. You can read more good reflections by Jan Johnson here.