Lent always comes at a difficult time for me; my birthday comes smack in the middle of Lent every year. When I was growing up my parents tried to make it as special as they could while still honoring the Lenten fasts. I did get a cake every year, and my mom usually made a German chocolate cake for me because it was my favorite kind.
I have always given something up for Lent, and when I was growing up my parents would allow me to have whatever it was on my birthday as a treat. So, if I had given up television I was allowed to choose one show to watch, or if I gave up sweets I got a candy treat. my dad explained it by saying that my birthday was a Feast, and you can’t fast on a feast; the same rationale for why Sundays aren’t part of the Lenten 40 days.
Now, when I think about how my Lent will be lived I am less concerned with what I will give up and more concerned with how I will make my life a conversion experience. I try to strip away the things that don’t help me tend toward God. I try in the 40 days of Lent to simplify my life as much as possible. The Church gives us the three-pronged strategy of prayer, fasting and charity. As often as possible I try to find an overlap in these three areas in my Lenten journey.
For instance, last year I lost quite a bit of weight, and had an overabundance of clothing that no longer fit. During Lent I spent a few days each week going through my clothing and sorting the wearable clothing that I could no longer use so that I could send it to charities in town. As I worked I spent time in prayer.
Another option I have used is to give up a character flaw for Lent. One year I gave up worrying for Lent. Last year I gave up road rage: each time I began to feel anger toward another driver while in my car I would turn the moment around and bless the drivers instead. I would pray for their needs, and ask God to extend grace to them. It didn’t happen immediately, but after a week or so I did begin to sense more peace in myself. God’s grace is so abundant that the grace I asked for the other drivers was flowing back toward me as well.
Those are just a few ideas of how I have shaken up my Lent. What are you thinking you might try this Lent to clear away the stuff that gets between you and God?