So as March arrives so does the season of Lent, or Quadragesima to give it its full Latin name. Lent can be a funny time of the year, it can sneak up without warning, suddenly announcing its arrival by finding a pancake stuck to the celling, with the age old tradition of shrove Tuesday coming just before Ash Wednesday. Suddenly we can be caught out as we suddenly remember that we should be giving something up for the season of Lent.
Over the past few years I have taken the concept of going without during this season a little more seriously than in past years. The list includes living without socks and shoes, and walking everywhere in bare feet. Another year I cut out drinking anything other than water, the year after I fasted only eating a meal after the sunset, cutting out all meat from my diet, and last year I got up every morning at 5am to prayer walk around Coulby Newham.
I did all of these things not for show or any type of piety, in fact the quieter I could keep them the better, although that was not always easy as walking in snow in bare feet raised more eye brows than not
Lent I believe is about a time of slowing down, a time of reassessing our spiritual journeys and thinking and praying for the needs of others. Lent is about giving thanks for the blessings and privileges that we often take for granted.
Each of the times I give something up it had a reason that I felt I needed to pray, think and find out more about. For the feet it was a need to pray for those who do not have the option about which shoes they would like to wear that day because to have just one pair of shoes would be considered a luxury, it also allowed me to slow down, literally! It took far longer to get anywhere, watching where I was walking. This in itself was refreshing not to be rushing everywhere at 100mph .
Just drinking water, allowed me to realise just how much water I waste and take for granted. The availability for clean fresh water to drink is something that I had never given much thought to before. Fasting until sundown, was caused by the raising violence in some northern African countries between Christians and Muslims, so my prayers were focused on those who’s lives were destroyed because of a lack of love for ones neighbour. Giving up meat, was hard for a carnivore like me, but it made me realise just how much we harvest animals just like any other commodity for our convenience. Getting up early and praying while most people were asleep forced me to live a different rhythm and think about the needs of our local community.
Each of these things has had an on going impact in my own faith journey. Not radically but subtly, there has not been huge U-turns in my lifestyle choices but rather a titling of the axis. But then I think that is often the way of faith. Christ said, “Come and follow me.” occasionally that with mean an instant life changing epiphany but most of the time I think it is small changes that allow us to authentically continue to live out the lives that he showed us to live, lives of love and wonder, seeking peace in our own hearts and in others.
So this Lent I pray you have a life changing journey, even if the change may only seem small. As Mother Teresa once said “No act of kindness is ever too small”
Grace and Peace