It’s Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day), but this year I am not giving up anything for lent, which I know might seem a bit controversial for a Christian … but just stick with me for a minute here!
Space to prepare your heart
I’m certainly not wanting to make light of that faith tradition in Christianity, or the importance of practising the discipline of fasting.
Sometimes choosing a season of restraint can be a really, really good thing.
It can help us to empty ourselves, and create more space in our lives and our hearts, to encounter the hope in the Easter story afresh.
So if you are giving something up for lent this year, then great; fast with all of those intentions around making space for Jesus, the coming King in mind.
Why I’m choosing self care this lent
But if like me, you already find yourself tired, thinly stretched, disappointed or broken in this season, and you already sense that you are just surviving more than thriving… why not make it a bit easier on yourself by choosing to prioritise good self-care this lent instead?
Because truthfully I think that my life, in this season at least, is challenging enough already without also trying to give up any small pleasures that I love such as coffee or chocolate or wine or social media as well.
And this year I actually really don’t feel like I need the ritual of fasting to remind me of my weakness, my humanity, and my desperate need for Him to break in; this year I am already painfully aware of all the above.
So what does it look like in practice?
Self care this lent might mean slowing down and resting well by getting some earlier nights.
It might mean focusing on taking up some new helpful practices rather than laying minor vices like chocolate or caffeine down.
And it might mean choosing to embrace doing more of those things that really feed your soul, like getting quality time with the people you love.
And know that there is absolutely no shame in this choice at all. In fact right now, it may be the most spiritual decision you could make.
Because honestly, I think that God is far less interested in what you are or aren’t quitting, than He is in the health of your spirit…
Choosing heart sacrifices over spiritual rituals
In my experience it can also be very easy to choose to do lent out of habit or external ritual, or perhaps even with some kind of false impression that it will impress God or others as well.
But in Psalm 51: 16-18 King David wrote these words:
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
Do you have a broken heart right now? Are you worn out? Struggling with sickness? Or do you feel bruised or disappointed by your present circumstances?
Well if so, maybe as this lent season begins again today, you’re right where He wants you to be; learning not to rely on mere spiritual rituals or external markers to ‘save’ you but simply offering God the gift of your broken heart instead.T
And in this space, the real question is this: Will you hear and respond to His invitation to entrust the broken and shattered pieces of your life into His hands or not?
Will you let go and allow Him to take them and to create them into something altogether different and new?
Because isn’t that what the Easter story is really all about? An awful death followed by a glorious resurrection…
And in light of that, is it so surprising that following Jesus might occasionally involve some of those themes in our own lives too?
A final thought …
So there you have it; that’s where I’m personally at this lent, dear reader, but it may or may not be a similar season of life for you.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says this:
‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’
In other words, practice lent or don’t. It’s really up to you…
But whatever you decide to give up or not give up, just be sure to do it with the right motivation; to make some space so that God can become bigger, and more glorified, in your life.