Next week we will enter the six weeks leading up to Easter, known by many as the season of Lent. In the church in which I was raised we only celebrated Easter Sunday, and it was the holiest day of the year. We remembered Christ’s triumph over the grave with all the significance we could give it, with trumpets and choirs and a strong message about the power of redemption. The worship service was followed by an afternoon of family, feasting and giving thanks. As lovely as this day was, when I learned later about the six weeks of Lent, I wished I’d known how meaningful it could be prepare for and anticipate Easter six weeks in advance. As I began to understand, Lent was an opportunity to make a sacrifice or give up something that had a hold on me to prepare me for the coming gifts of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Trying it on as an adult, I’ve periodically taken a six-week break from a range of things like chocolate, the internet, shopping, wine, and uncharitable thoughts. It’s a practice that has added meaning to Christ’s sacrifice as I’ve chosen it each year. The crucifixion and resurrection have felt much more personal as I've aligned myself with him and let go of something of value to me.
One year a family friend introduced a novel idea. He said, “The things you’re giving up for Lent clearly serve a purpose, yet have you thought about what you’re doing with the space you’re creating? You’re giving up something to make room for… what? More margin? More head space? More of God? What if you added something new to these six weeks?”
As he spoke, I realized I’d been missing an opportunity to be intentional. Having freed myself from social media for instance, I now had that pocket of time each day I could devote to being still with God, to meditating or reading or centering prayer or walking in the woods. All these things that help me feel closer to God are things I can choose to embrace as I give up something to make my life more spacious. And in that space, God waits.
What will I do with these six weeks this year? I am still seeking answers to that question. What I do hope is to be intentional about creating a spaciousness that God inhabits. He’s inviting me to more… and less… at the same time. “God, help me to choose the Life you’ve set before me.”
Is there something that you feel invited to set aside for the next weeks, to make room for noticing God’s presence? Does the invitation to take on a new practice have more appeal? What might feel life-giving to you in this holy season?
“Breath of God in me, God has said Yes to me by giving you to me as my helper and source of the new life I want. The faith you are giving me will help my Yes to life to gradually sound stronger than the No of my mistrust. The hope you are stirring in me will help my Yes overcome my timidity. The love with which you are impregnating me will melt the barriers behind which I have been taught to live and help me say Yes to myself, to others, and to the God in whom we all live and move and have our being.”
-- Martin L. Smith, SSJE
Leslea Linebarger lives in Southborough, MA with her husband and family. She worships at St. Mark's Episcopal Church where she is a choir member and women's group leader. She enjoys hiking, biking, trying new recipes and spending time with her new grandbaby.