Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which is a season of preparation for Christians in the weeks leading up to Easter.
The denominational tradition in which I grew up did not observe Lent, but in recent years I have experienced great spiritual growth during this season. Christians traditionally practice self-denial during Lent, allowing the opportunity for personal discipline, as well as greater focus on and identification with Christ, his suffering and death. Typical denials include chocolate, swearing, alcohol, soda and other unhealthy foods, sex, and social media. (Last year, the #1 sacrifice made by Twitter users was — you guessed it — Twitter.)
I have sometimes given things up for Lent, starting with Easter candy (which, trust me, used to be a big sacrifice) and continuing to several fasts of increasing length. More recently, however, I have felt more compelled to begin a new practice than to give something up during this season. A few years ago, I wrote an encouraging Post-It note to Dave every day for 40 days. As you can imagine, it was transformative for my heart and our relationship. I have also meditated on the Jesus Creed and read various works by Henri Nouwen.
This year, I have committed to praying the Daily Examen at the end of every day during Lent. I am looking forward to this time of focused prayer and reflection. I will also continue my current commitments of reading through the Bible, observing a weekly Sabbath, and maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise. If God provides additional direction during this season as a result of the Examen, I will follow that leading as well.
How has God led you to observe Lent this year?