We’re a couple of days into Lent already. I enjoy Lent, I appreciate the chance to slow down, spend more time in prayer, spend more time thinking about the world around me and how I can affect change in things that matter to me (almsgiving) and spend less time thinking about me and my needs (fasting). It’s an interesting mix of being more internal: my prayer means more time deliberately alone and quiet or in reflective prayer groups and church services and the external: fasting makes me realise how much I consume; almsgiving brings inequality and social injustice into sharp focus.
I find fasting is the element that is easiest to make happen, it is the part of Lent that most people have heard about. Fasting usually means giving up a type of food or drink, but I have also fasted from plastic use and from social media in the past. The challenge for me is to see it as a reset of my dependence on some sort of consumption, creating an ease and space in me that I can then devote to prayer. Not as a diet! But generally it is fairly easy to put in place.
More challenging is almsgiving. Never mind about giving up the chocolate, what do you do instead of eat chocolate? I need to look around and observe where I can see injustice or inequality and use the chocolate money to do something about it. And – add a bit to the chocolate money and also lend my voice to the cause. Today is International Women’s Day, so looking at an issue focussed on women seems to be in order today. If you can empower women you can change whole communities. The ongoing challenge is that I don’t think almsgiving is supposed to be about a one-off donation, it’s about being much more open to the injustice around you and knowing that you are part of the solution.
The most challenging for me is finding time every day for prayer. A proper chunk of reflection and listening to God – finding the requisite time feels ridiculously challenging. I worry I don’t pray properly. I worry I don’t hear what I should hear or see what I should see.
And that is the beauty of Lent. It is an annual challenge to stop, reset your priorities, move your focus outwards to the world and also to a higher power. It is a time to prioritise my spirit, not tick lists, not outward appearance, but the why of my life.