The Journey of Lent

The Journey of Lent

Thursday, 25 February 2016  | Narelle - MECS Principal
My daughter’s best friend at church recently announced that she had given up dessert for Lent! I was slightly surprised as The Salvation Army is not known for its strict adherence to the liturgical calendar of the church and as such, there was only scant reference to the beginning of Lent a couple of weeks ago. However, somewhere along the line, my daughter’s friend knew that you were supposed to give something up for Lent, preferably something you enjoyed.

For me however, the journey of Lent is not one of self-improvement or even self-denial; one in which you discover how to be a perfect, good or impressive person by denying yourself some small pleasure or indulgence. It’s a journey that teaches us that God is love, and that God loves each one of us more than we can imagine or comprehend. At the heart of the Christian faith is not a quest to be good enough for God, but perhaps for some, even a harder struggle, the struggle to allow yourself to be loved by God just as we are! The journey towards Easter is one that should draw you to God, to be more like Him in thought, attitude and action.

So, if being more contemplative or intentional about life helps you draw closer to God this Lent, then I offer a few helpful hints. You might like to join me in these practices!

Give Up Grumbling
It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of grumbling. It’s not that we are even extremely unhappy with something, we just do it! It will probably be difficult to give up grumbling for good, but at least being aware of how much we grumble is a good start. Perhaps over time we could transform our grumbles into protest, penitence or petition. We might just find that we have a new passion for justice and prayer.

Practise Hospitality
Take time to notice the people you don’t usually notice. Offer a greeting when others are silent. Learn to wave in a friendly and affirming way. Make eye-contact with someone to show them you are supporting them in their struggles. We can’t be friends with everyone, but by being friendly, we can touch, and perhaps even change someone’s life. Simply take one small, but deliberate step in the direction of being more hospitable.

Behave as a Child
Jesus says that children are at home in the Kingdom of God, and so he wants adults to sometimes be childlike. The child in you is naïve, impulsive, direct, simple, trusting, vulnerable, unsophisticated and unpretentious. Jesus tells us that this is the most important part of who we are! Let your inner child out to play. It knows how to live.

Admit a Recent Mistake
Just one will do. Notice when you have made a mistake and own up to it quickly, simply and honestly. And then let it go. We are mistake-makers most of the time, so once we get used to owning up to our mistakes, we will no longer try to cover up the mistakes we make every day. Rather, we will find opportunities to learn humility.

Pocket an Insult
This phrase is attributed to Gandhi. It means ‘do not take an insult personally’ or ‘do not take it to heart’. But equally, it does not mean, ‘ignore it and it will go away’. Rather, if you are on the receiving end of a hurtful comment, it is rarely going to be helpful to react immediately. Instead, pop it in your pocket! After a while, take it out, pray about it and see whether it is worth responding to carefully and humbly.

Do Something for Someone Else
Do something simple, modest and practical for someone else. But don’t be excessive. Don’t take over. Don’t create dependency. Simply lend a hand. It is modest, humble, practical generosity that most people need, not grand projects or patronising performances.

Be Proud of Yourself
While bad pride is to be avoided, good pride accepts praise gratefully but humbly and allows us to recognise that our efforts are worthwhile and our achievements valid. It is that very down-to-earth feeling we have when we allow ourselves to look at work well done with kind and straightforward eyes. Good pride is not pushy and should be expressed modesty. Meanwhile we should try to shake off all forms of bad pride – arrogance, conceitedness and chauvinism.

Encourage Others
Encouraging others is the opposite of criticising them. Whereas criticism comes from meanness of spirit, encouragement comes from a generosity of spirit. As such it reflects something of God’s love. Encouragement comes from our desire to see others flourish and thrive. Encouragement involves noticing what others are contributing, so why not tell people you have noticed the difference that their effort has made? Allow people the joy of knowing that you have noticed.

(Stephen is the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge University. These ideas are taken from his blog entitled, Another Angle, which can be found at 

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