Choosing the “Bright Sadness” of Lent

When Pursuit Has Left You Weary & Looking for More

Ding – the familiar sound sends my fingers scurrying to the computer tab that simply says Facebook (1). It’s become an automatic response – rushing to see what social media has to say about me.

It can be an insidious pursuit for approval or comfort that slips in a thousand different ways. Whether it’s watching the number of likes on an Instagram photo, an impulse shopping trip or sneaking the fourth triple chocolate brownie – the pursuit appears full of promise. Yet I find myself empty, weary and worn.

Ironically, lent appears devoid and empty – a place of lack, discomfort and denial. No instant gratification, no easy answers nor applause from others. It is a place that demands transparency and reveals motives – a place only the Lord can fully enter. So the question becomes – is this place of lack where my soul could truly thrive?

Lent: A Catholic Tradition?

I had long brushed lent off as a Catholic tradition. In a sense, I was right. The Catholics began observing Lent to remind themselves of the value of repentance. It was a great idea – but one that led over time to a belief that giving up something for lent was a way to attain God’s blessing. Not so great.

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The Power of Lent & Repentance

Yet observing lent ironically strikes at the heart of Catholicism’s fatal flaw. Instead of encouraging good works, lent is a stark reminder that my pursuit to meet my deepest needs through my own efforts repeatedly fails.

  • My social media notifications give a moment’s pleasure. Then the smiling faces and beautiful images on the Facebook & Instagram leave me feeling inadequate.
  • The new outfit is flattering and exciting. Then it becomes yesterday’s news and I feel the pressure to buy the latest trend to be beautiful and accepted again.
  • My fourth triple fudge brownie melts in my mouth. Then it leaves me feeling ashamed and I berate myself for my lack of self-control and how tight my pants have become.

Likewise my pursuit to do enough good works to be saved fails miserably. It again leaves me empty, weary and worn.

Lent, however, makes no flashy promises. Instead, the practice of fasting in Lent reveals and casts light on areas of my life I want to ignore. It uncovers where I subtly (and often not so subtly) place my trust in something outside of God. It doesn’t lead me to do better. Instead, in the silence it shows me the depth of my sin and the greatness of my need.

Lent creates space for longing. The silence and lack reminds my heart what is missing. It births a deep desire for the One who can truly give life to the full (John 10:10). It reminds me of my human fragility and need. Lent prepares my heart for Easter.

“Fasting makes space for God, both in our hearts and in our schedules.” –Living the Christian Year

How to Celebrate Lent (Ideas for You & Your Girls)

Lent in many ways is a very individualized and personal journey as it largely focuses on repentance. With our varying personalities and vulnerabilities to specific sins, the Holy Spirit reveals and guides us in the places we need to grow. The journey looks differently for everyone so I’ve posted a few ideas below to get you thinking…

  1. Read a Lent devotional (My girls and I are reading through Awake My Soul this year).
  2. Share through a phone call or group message insights you have had along the journey of Lent.
  3. Give up social media to starve yourself of the need of the approval of others.
  4. Begin a prayer journal. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to put away sin (Rom. 8:13).
  5. Give up sweets to cut off food as a means of comfort.

 

Conclusion

“A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent, we see – far, far away – the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom.”

– Alexander Schemamann

Oh, how I hope you will join me and my girls as we take the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent on Wednesday, March 1st! The more intentional the preparation, the sweeter the celebration. So let’s be prepared friends – wide eyed, eager and brimming with excitement to celebrate JESUS and the freedom, hope and life of Easter!

Are you observing Lent? If so, I’d love to hear what you are doing below!

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