The Beginning of Lent

The Beginning of Lent February 16, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010, marked the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.  It is that yearly time when those Christians who observe the liturgical year take an intentional and honest look at their hearts and the state of their relationship with God.

For some years now, I’ve seen this time as a place to do a thorough cleaning out.  Like an old-fashioned “spring cleaning,” it is a splendid and specified period to take a thorough spiritual inventory. With that inventory, we can discard the things that separate us from the richness of a life lived in harmony with God’s heart beat and add the things that would enhance such joy and lightness of spirit.
By the way, do you know why people used to do a thorough spring cleaning?  In houses heated by coal or fireplace, by the end of winter the interior of the homes would be filthy with a layer of coal dust and airborne ash. So, when the weather warmed enough to dispense with those means of heating, everything inside was washed and scrubbed and as much as possible taken outside to hang in the warm sunshine for bleaching and the restoration of freshness.  The sign of a lazy, slatternly homemaker was one who did not engage in this energetic spring cleanse of her household.
I’d suggest that the sign of a lazy, slatternly Christian is one who will not undertake the same discipline with the soul.
To continue the comparison with spring cleaning, consider this:  while we don’t need to shake the coal dust out of our curtains any more, nearly everyone periodically does need to clean out closets and garages, and empty out the inevitable trash drawer that inhabits nearly every house.  You know what I’m writing about–that place where all the oddments are tossed, the key to goodness knows what, the screw found laying around, the coupons you never redeemed, the coins covered with some unknown sticky substance, the child’s toy left carelessly on the floor and hurriedly picked up.  Or how about the boxes tossed in the garage, the flower pots which never get replanted, the cans that need to be recycled, the boxes of things that you will “get to eventually?”
Lent means that “eventually” has come, but instead of that garage and junk drawer (and just think how good you feel when you DO clean those out!), it is time to look instead at these things:
  • What are the habits that you have developed that harm your body and your soul?
  •  What are the things that you’ve come to worship this year that have taken the place of a grateful and loving relationship with God?
  • What are the grudges that you are carrying that rob you of joy and freedom?
  • Who have you chosen not to forgive?
  • Whom did you wrong where you never sought to make it right?
  • Where have you crossed a moral line, even the tiniest one, that means you need to hide in some way from exposure?  How have you spent the money that you earned or was given to you?
  • Did you honor God with a tenth of it freely given away or did you decide that you really needed that bit for some momentary pleasure?
  • Did you get yourself deeper in debt by careless indulgences?
  • How have you treated the least among you?
  • What are the kinds of things you filled your mind with?
  • Where do you spend the majority of your leisure time?
Answers to questions like these will open a lot of dark closets of your interior life that really do need a good toss out, and then a wash and scrub job.
The best Lenten observances can be viewed as “Boot Camp” for your soul.  Get to church weekly, pray daily, give up something that is hard, hard, hard to give up so you can see clearly just how addicted you are to it, practice a fearless moral inventory, discard that which is killing you and others, and then discover the delightful exhilaration of Easter morning on April 4 when you can join with the multitudes and shout, “He is Risen, Indeed!”
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