So simple a word, and yet so fraught with meaning.
It's a word that both challenges and beckons. What is Lent...and why do we observe it?
There are many answers, but perhaps the simplest and most personal is that it's a time when God reminds us to turn to Him. It's a season when He stirs our hearts and whispers, "I'm here. Beneath the flurry of classes, beneath the ceaseless noise of keyboards typing, iPhones beeping, teachers calling out assignments, and the sound of each day being lived out...I'm here. Right now, with you. Waiting for you. Ready to give you peace."
I've written before in past years what Lent means and why it's celebrated. But this semester, I was struck with its meaning in an entirely new way. God showed me through several experiences why Lent is associated with penance, with sacrifice...it's not the most joyous time, Lent. None of us like forgoing our favorite foods, sweets, coffee, Facebook, or whatever it may be that we've given up for Lent.
It's because Lent is about realizing our brokenness. It's the quiet realization that we are not the most important thing in this enormous, amazing universe - and that we never have been. Lent is looking in the mirror and understanding that if we shine, it's because we are reflecting the Most Beautiful Person who is, has, and will be.
Because when we acknowledge that we are humans who fall, when we accept that we perhaps haven't done the best job, we're acknowledging that God's presence in our lives is the only perfect thing about us.
But the good thing about realizing that we're broken? Broken things can be repaired - and our God is a God of love. He is gentle, He is kind, He is tender. And He's calling us to Him.
Perhaps this semester's started off on a rough note. Perhaps you're stretched beyond your means. Perhaps you're feeling inadequate. Perhaps you're struggling with a toxic relationship, or one that isn't going the way you wish it would. Friends, it's this exact time - during these exact hardships, that God is waiting. For you. While He may not be "a tame lion," He's not going to force you to love Him. Instead, He waits for you, because He knows your heart better than anyone else. And another thing, friends. Only He can truly satisfy it. Because He knows you perfectly, and no matter how dear your family, your friends, or your significant other is...your heart is always longing for God. Because true peace and joy come from Him.
So this Lent, take some time to carve out a moment - even if it's just a moment - to rest in God and ask Him for peace:
- Follow a Lenten scripture reading plan - there's a great free Bible app for the iPhone called "Holy Bible" by YouVersion that has a wonderful selection of bible study plans. #SheReadsTruth is wonderful!
- Try making it a goal to attend morning or evening Mass during the week - even if it's only once or twice
- Join a Bible study and really delve into scripture
- Check your church's bulletin or website for information about any Lenten services they may offer.
- Chose one day during the week, like Friday, on which Lenten penance is especially observed, and commit to 15 or 30 minutes of prayer that day.
- Many Catholic churches offer a plethora of Lenten services from daily Mass, Adoration, Confession, reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet (a special series of penitential prayers), and the Stations of the Cross
- It's okay to start small!
So that brokenness? That aching heart? That spirit, so overwhelmed and exhausted by everything that needs to be done?
Bring it to Him. I guarantee you, He won't let you down. This is God, we're talking about, after all. He happens to be amazing.