Wednesday, February 22, 2023

A Meaningful Lent

Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Included in one of the readings for Ash Wednesday, these particular verses set me thinking about past Lenten disciplines that helped me focus on collecting treasure in heaven, the practices that had staying power with me and helped me know myself and God better.

One year I took on the practice of writing a poem each day. That practice helped me to pay attention, both to what was happening around me and to what was happening within me. After all, I needed something to write a poem about. I found the practice so helpful in paying attention that I adopted for this year, to help me live into the word that is guiding me in 2023.

Another year, I worked through a Lenten book called Simplifying the Soul. What made this practice significant is that some of the exercises it suggested revealed to me attachments of which I was not aware. I learned a lot about myself working through that book. 

Years when I gave up chocolate or desserts or similar things did not have the lasting effect that these practices had. However, the year I let someone talk me into giving up coffee I found myself resentful. I learned that year not to allow anyone else to determine what my Lenten discipline should be!

The year that likely was the hardest, and yet the most transformational, was the year my practice was to not defend, justify, or explain myself when my words or actions were misconstrued. My then-husband frequently accused me of motives that had never crossed my mind, and when I would try to clarify my actions to him, things would escalate. Choosing this discipline for Lent meant I absorbed the accusations and twisting of my motives. It was so hard. 

Our natural response is to want to be understood, to be seen for who we are. To keep quiet reminded me of Isaiah 53:7: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

As hard as the practice was, there was less conflict in our home because I chose to keep silent. Additionally, keeping silent allowed me to see more clearly that his behavior wasn’t simple misconstruing of my actions but a form of verbal abuse. Because I wasn’t allowing myself to be drawn into an argument, I came to recognize something I hadn’t previously.

Obviously, not every Lenten discipline has had the impact that these three did. But taking the time to consider how I want to grow, how I want to be made different beyond the season of Lent, is, for me, laying up treasure in heaven. So I give careful consideration each year to the Lenten practice I will adopt, knowing this season of Lent is a chance for God to create a clean heart in me.

I invite you to pray and consider carefully how your Lenten discipline can help you lay up treasure in heaven. Blessings on your Lenten journey.

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