In the Ash Wednesday sermon I offered yesterday, I said, “During Lent we are called to deal honestly and courageously with our sin and sorrow.” Lent acknowledges and celebrates that it is OK not to be OK. Lent is open season on grief—and we have a lot to grieve. The stories and images coming out of Ukraine are disturbing, the overt racial hatred laid bare in the trial of Ahmad Avery’s murderers is sickening, the changes and disruptions at Grace Church are confusing and distressing, we all have our own stuff we are carrying, and then all of that is STILL wrapped up with COVID. How do we even know where to begin?
My colleague, Alissa Newton, is a priest in Washington state. In a social media post earlier this week she proposed that maybe this is not the year to take on the usual “giving up things/Lent-as-diet-challenge and to find Lenten practices that are gentle and life-giving.”
Rev. Newton offered the following list of Lenten discipline suggestions:
- Fast from talking about bodies—other people’s or your own. Don’t compliment anyone on how they look. Don’t tell people about your weight gain or weight loss plans. Notice how difficult or easy this is.
- Write a prayer for an everyday task or chore and say it whenever you do the chore. A prayer for picking up the socks the dog has dragged to the living room. A prayer for prayer for picking up dog poop in the backyard. A prayer for wiping down the counters before the dog licks them. Pray it and mean it. (Puppies are a lot of work.)
- Set a timer and two or three times a day stop, breathe, stretch. Notice your body. Say amen.
- Stop sending/replying to texts and checking email after 8pm. Notice and get curious about how this feels.
- Once a week, take a nap. Calendar it.
Lent is about making space for God’s grace in your life: clearing away the busy-ness, slowing down, listening, reflecting, and offering it all back to God (even and especially the messiness.) What will you do with your gentle Lent?