Lent has always had a special place in my heart. It has also been especially effective at transforming my life practices. For instance, it was the simple act of giving up sodas that began a much healthier lifestyle and led to 45 lb weight loss in about a year- and it all started with giving up sodas for that 40 days (just giving up sodas I lost 15-20lbs). It helped me gain control of that soda drinking too. In another instance, I tried giving up watching sports on TV, reading about sports online, and playing any sort of sport video games- but allowed myself to actually play them or watch them in person. That changed my life in that I haven’t been so caught up needing to watch sports or unable to focus when my team is on TV and actually able to focus on someone else when sports may be on. I don’t need sports anymore- rather now I consider watching and reading a nice luxury (most of the time!). A real change for the better. So, all that being said, the Lenten season has always been very beneficial.
Now, what will my Lenten season look like this year? I am taking on a lot, but I usually try two-three things, one or two fasts and one or two additions to my life. I share all of this not because I am righteous and because any who read must emulate me- but that I like the accountability of knowing that people know what I am giving up. I invite your participation and accountablity:
- Practicing the spiritual discipline of examen every evening.
- Read one Psalm a day. (1, 3, 6, 9…)
- Fasting every Wednesday from 1pm to Thursday 11am. (Dinner, Breakfast)
- Fasting from unhealthy snacks: only fruits!
- Fasting from sexual activity. (Not what you think. I would lie if I said I didn’t masturbate like any normal young man. Perhaps it isn’t really wrong anyway, but it is helpful to sacrifice the “pleasure”.)
By the way, the practice of examen is quite simple. It is a practice of rummaging for God and noticing my God given desires during the day, essentially opening up what was beautiful and what was difficult and trying. At the end of a day, I reflect in maybe 15 minutes or so, 1) What moment today am I most grateful and least grateful? 2) When did I give and receive the most love today- and when did I give and receive the least love? 3) What was the most life-giving part of my day- and what was the least life giving part of my day? 4) When did I have the deepest sense of connection to God and others and myself- and when I did have the least sense of connection? 5) Where was I was aware of living out the fruit of the Spirit- and when was there an absence of the fruit of the Spirit? 6) Where did I experience “consolation” and when did I experience “desolation”? —- In essence, it is a practice of naming God’s presence through the lows and highs of a day and almost invites me to understand who I was created to be- what gives me life and what drains me.
These are my goals, and certainly I will falter on them throughout the Lenten fast, especially since there is so much. But I have noticed that when I have a lot of smaller commitments, I do a pretty good job focusing.
In the midst of chaos and darkness, in the midst of failure and success, in the midst of sin and despair, bring light O Lord to longing hearts in repentance and fasting and transformation. Create in us, in me, a clean heart, O God. Amen.