It’s game time. With Ash Wednesday upon us, Lent has officially begun. Hopefully, by now you’ve decided what spiritual observance you’ll make during the season of Lent. But, let’s be honest, there are a lot of folks scrambling to figure out what they’ll do before eventually deciding to give up Facebook around 9:00p.m. this evening.
People choose all manner of observances for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons stay true to the intention of the season, and other fall somewhere outside (read – Lent as unofficial diet plan). Where ever you are, I pray that you’re entering the season of Lent with a sincere desire to grow spiritually.
Below are three thoughts to help you in this endeavor during Lent 2015.
I’m not recommending that you do nothing to pursue spiritual growth. But, sometimes the pursuit of growth looks a lot more like doing nothing than doing something. In past years, I have filled my lent with so many “spiritual activities,” I ultimately ended up either burning out or being too distracted to allow God to really move in my heart. My spiritual endeavors became more of a checklist of tasks to be completed than a focus upon building upon a solid relationship with the Lord.
Maybe today, Ash Wednesday, you’re looking at a laundry list of things you’d like to do or accomplish this Lent. For each and every item, I challenge you to evaluate those tasks and ask if that time might be better spent in silent prayer or reflection. Let Lent be an invitation to slow down, turn inward and retreat to the desert with Christ.
Ok, I have to admit, I stole that line from my karate instructor, but it applies as much (if not more) to the spiritual life than it does martial arts. The fruit of spiritual growth is not what you “get out of it” day to day. It is not about having a pithy quote to share with the world via Facebook. It’s isn’t a picture of your prayer set up to share on Instagram. The goal of your spiritual pursuit is transformation.
Transformation is not only possible but demanded of us as disciples of God. It’s easy to feel defeated when we so often fall into the habits and traps of sin. But, the Lord has issued the invitation for us to join Him in eternal life, yes in heaven, but here as well.
With this in mind, our pursuit of spiritual growth requires that we do a top to bottom inventory of the influences that are filling our hearts and minds. Are they making us more like Jesus?
To accomplish this task, we must rethink what it really means to get stronger.
The apostle Paul reminds us that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thus, to grow in Christ we must be acutely aware of our own weaknesses. We do so, not so that we can dwell on them in guilt, but so we can put them in their proper place. Sometimes we just need a little honesty with ourselves to bring our weaknesses to the forefront of our hearts and call them what they are.
Doing this requires that we constantly check our conscience. Our faith requires that we make a lifelong commitment to forming our consciences so that we have a proper orientation of what’s right and wrong. To get stronger we have to invite the Holy Spirit to reveal us to ourselves, to give us eyes to see as he sees. We must examine ourselves constantly, reorienting our hearts to the heart of Christ who is Lord of even the mundane parts of our lives.
While this call might sound lofty, there are resources available to help you accomplish this task. One of the most popular is The Daily Examen, a spiritual exercise developed by St. Ignatius Loyola. Click here for more information on the Examen.
With that said, may God bless you in this season of Lent!