My Own Lenten Practice
I always wonder when sharing these sorts of things if it is helpful to tell others about our practices for Lent. I am mindful of Jesus’ words in Matthew about fasting and praying in secret. Personally, I understand those words to be a safeguard against our own ego. So, please hear my heart that I share this with you in hopes of encouraging your own practice not to glorify mine.
When I began to consider places where I was resisting God, three areas came to my awareness.
- I have a really complicated relationship with Scripture. My religious heritage values the knowledge of Scripture and I have been formed in positive ways by this value. At the same time, my religious heritage also uses Scripture as a weapon and that weapon has wounded me deeply. These wounds go deep: scripture has been used to tell me that I must be mistaken about God’s call to ministry because I am female. Scripture has been used to tell me that my only hope for salvation is to give birth to children because I am female. Scripture has been used to tell me that I am a second class citizen in God’s kingdom because I am female. These wounds are in full opposition to the ways that I know God and therefore, my relationship with Scripture is complicated. I find myself uninterested in spending quality time in Scripture. (That feels dangerous to admit but it is true.) So, for Lent, I committed to hearing the Jesus story. Every morning, for about 20 minutes as I get ready for the day, I listen to the Gospels. My bible app on my smart phone will read to me. I have heard Matthew and John and am about halfway through Luke right now. This practice has been life-giving for me! I find myself hearing how Jesus interacted with women and it speaks to the deep wounds in my heart. Interestingly, as I have committed to hearing this story daily, I find my appetite for reading fiction has diminished. I didn’t expect that connection and am exploring it with God right now.
- I have a long history of struggling to connect body with soul. Henri Nouwen describes our physical bodies as the address of our soul but I tend to treat the two as very separate. So, rather than mixing up my need to do healthy things for my body with external results like weight loss, I committed to being aware during Lent. Each time I reach for food, I make it a point to ask myself why I am eating. Is it for hunger? Is it to feed some emotion? Is it to participate socially? In this practice, I am connecting my body with my soul without searching for an external result. To some, this may not seem like a true fast as I haven’t abstained from food. But, choosing to connect eating with spiritual awareness has been eye-opening for me and food for prayer as I realize that my relationship with food is pretty complicated, too.
- In these past three months, I have been enjoying some reading about the Enneagram. My interest was sparked by two directees who wanted to explore the Enneagram in direction. As I have learned about the wisdom of the Enneagram with them, I have been blessed personally by its wisdom. The Enneagram describes nine basic personality types by their vices, or shortcomings. I am a nine. I am defined (according the Enneagram) by my need to avoid conflict. Um, yeah. That rings so true! I experience conflict of any kind, even friendly banter, in my stomach as it ties up in knots. Now, the Enneagram is quick to point out that all types can be redeemed to healthier levels by their spiritual work. Really healthy nines are peacemakers who broker true peace, not just the absence of conflict. So, for Lent, I have committed to being aware of my desire to run from conflict and instead of running to consider carefully what true peace could look like. This is a very challenging commitment for me as I am not always aware that I am avoiding conflict. Daily examen has been very helpful in noticing the places where I have dodged conflict.
It occurred to me after writing this that each of these practices are passive. Hhmmmm….that feels right to me. So much of my spiritual life has been about my attempting to create, control, and manufacture an experience with God. Each of these practices require me to receive from God outside of myself even as my deeper self is being changed. It seems that this is kind of what Lent is supposed to be about…
What about you? How are you making space to draw nearer to God during Lent?