Even though I was raised as a Christian from early childhood, my first exposure to Lent didn’t occur until high school. A friend of mine, a Ukrainian Catholic, would abstain from certain foods in keeping with her family’s religious tradition. I found it interesting how periods of abstinence were followed by periods of feasting, though as a non-denominational believer I never really understood the true value of these practices. It would not be until much later that I would join a church community that reverently (but not legalistically) observed the church calendar, and that I would be inspired to incorporate these beautiful traditions into my own life.
Lent has been observed by the Christian church for more than a thousand years. It is a time dedicated to spiritual growth through repentance and denial of self. I have often heard Christians discuss what they are “giving up” for Lent, and though this inspires me, I’ve often struggled to pick something that is both doable for my busy life, but serious enough to qualify as sacrifice. Often I find myself well into the Lent season without having found something to give up that feels “right,” so I don’t end up feeling like a Lent impostor.
Last Sunday, I was inspired at church to consider adding a spiritual discipline for Lent, rather than giving something up. This I could relate to; this is what I craved! On the night before Ash Wednesday, however, I lay in bed considering what practice I could implement, and how I could fit it in. How ironic that my calendar seemed too jammed to add something new, even for the benefit of my spiritual life.
That’s when it hit me like a blaze of light. I had found what I could authentically give up! Not sure how I would achieve it, I wistfully jotted across my journal page – “give up busyness for Lent.” Now that I had the right focus for Lent, I just needed to figure out how I could actually pull it off. So, I did what any spiritually mature woman would do… I grabbed my tablet and punched the phrase into Google!
The search results pulled up an interesting website from the United Kingdom, http://www.notbusy.co.uk/. Someone else, an Anglican minister named Stephen Cherry, had already thought of this idea. He had, in fact, turned it into a movement complete with “I’m not busy” wristbands and a Facebook group. The website states it plainly, “The developed world is suffering from an epidemic of major proportions, and the disease at the heart of it is busyness.” But how does a person tackle such an ingrained lifestyle pattern in a 40 day period? Cherry’s website offered some practical suggestions, of which one jumped out at me – take some time every day to do absolutely nothing. A real challenge for a burn-the-candle-at-both-ends, Type-A person like me.
Ironically, the busyness of my week took over, and I was unable to start my “doing nothing” practice on Ash Wednesday, the official start to the Lent season. My perfectionist self wondered if I should even bother doing the challenge if I couldn’t do it “right.” But, then I asked myself, is Lent about being perfect? Or is it about acknowledging my imperfection and my need for God to transform my heart and life? Surely, it is the latter. And so, I am entering Lent, late but with sincerity, into a practice of rest. I look forward with anticipation as to how “doing nothing” is going to enrich my life!
Will you join me in making time for Lent?