Lent is More than a Six-Week Diet

Ignatius preached simplicity to allow room for a relationship with God to grow.

March 08, 2019
Meredith McKay, Office of Mission and Ministry

As we approached the Lenten season this year, I was surrounded again, as I am each year, with conversations about the things people would be giving up: a coworker giving up espresso, a student giving up processed sugar, several friends giving up social media. Historically, I’ve struggled with the idea of giving something up – if the season of Lent is not only supposed to give us a taste of understanding what Jesus experienced in his 40 days in the desert, but also prepare us for the coming sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus at Easter and bring us closer to God, I couldn’t imagine how being grumpy for six weeks because I gave up coffee or chocolate was really helping me accomplish that.  


In recent years, a reframing of my understanding specifically around the Lenten season as a preparation for Easter has been helpful. For the resurrection to happen, for all the joy, hope, and celebration that comes with Easter, Jesus first had to die. Death was necessary to create space for new life. To reframe my understanding of Lent around the resurrection, I thought first about what new life I wanted to create space for in this season. In my prayer time, I realized I was in need of refreshing my practice of gratitude – and specifically because I do not think we tell people frequently enough that we are grateful for their role in our lives, I decided I would focus on one person each day for whom I am grateful and spend time in prayer for them as well as write them a note telling them why I am grateful for them.  Then, I had to ask myself this question: what in my life do I need to “let die” to create space for this new thing? The practice of daily prayer and writing notes of gratitude necessitates minimizing the amount of time I spend mindlessly scrolling through social media or re-watching episodes of Law and Order: SVU for the tenth time. To create space for these daily notes, I have to ensure that my mindless media consumption “dies.”  


In a culture where it feels like we must be constantly on the move, constantly producing something, constantly consuming information, this invitation to create space and let something die can be counterintuitive and intimidating, but it can also be a blessed and welcome opportunity to be more intentional with our time in a way that brings us closer to God. This Lenten season, what can you let die to create space for new life? What new thing will help you prepare for Easter and bring you closer to God?