As a baptized Catholic and practicing Anglican, Lent is a season I look forward to every year.
If you are unfamiliar with Lent, it’s a 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for six weeks. The 40 days is symbolic of when Jesus went out into the desert to fast and pray before starting his ministry.
This time we spend taking part in Lent should be a time of prayer, penance, repentance, and abstinence. Symbolic of Jesus’ time in the desert.
This is where I typically lose people. These words seem to rub people the wrong way. Particularly the last three words: penance, repentance, and abstinence. And rightly so, because the definition of these three words is quite harsh.
Let me share with you how these three words relate to today’s landscape. More importantly, how spending time in these areas of your life will prove to be beneficial.
I see penance as a self-examination of myself and my behavior. I know I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes. Spending time in introspection allows me to examine who I am as a wife, a sibling, a daughter and a friend. Am I happy with my behavior? If I’m not happy, what can I do to improve and show the people around me more love?
This means recognizing something in your life that may not be aligned with your true self. Once you realize it – you then make the decision to turn away from this way of life. This could be as simple as a behavior you know you shouldn’t continue doing. A good example is something called triangulation. This is when you are having an issue with someone and you talk about it with somebody else. This is basically gossip and usually magnifies the problem and can become very toxic.
When I was young, I would observe Lent with my grandmother. We would give up foods we loved. Popcorn, soft drink, chocolate. Whatever we loved as we wanted it to be a sacrifice to show God our love. As an adult, this word represents something different for me. I ask myself – what things in my life am I dependent on? What are things in my life taking me away from my goals rather than moving me forward? Television? Social Media? Caffeine? Alcohol? Should I stop consuming one or more of these things? Will it improve the quality of my life and move me closer to my goals? Usually, the answer to this is Yes – which means I should consider abstaining for a while. Take control of my life again.
Looking at these three words with a different lens – doesn’t it make you look forward to the self-improvement? Penance encourages self-examination. Repentance shows you how to turn away from something toxic. Abstinence gives you control back from something that has been consuming your life.
You don’t have to wait for Lent to spend time in these areas of your life. Do it when you’re ready. Review and ponder what is holding you back from living the life you crave. A life of peace and happiness. A life of purpose.