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  • Writer's pictureRuth Sauers

Lent for beginners

I’m not sure what it is about following a church calendar and practices like Lent and Advent that draw me in so much. I’m a routine girl - my husband can attest to the fact that I take about the same amount of drinks of water and shift my position just about the same exact number of times each night before I settle down and fall asleep. He laughs at me just about every night. Time for your third sip. I love a good routine, I love a good framework, I also love things that are intentional and purposeful at pointing us to the meaning of the season and how we can prepare our hearts and posture ourselves for communion with God in the days and weeks leading up to an incredible celebration of our faith. When we have a good rhythm and a good framework already in place in our life, the unexpected things have less chance of completely unmooring us and making us bounce around like a pinball machine wondering what should demand our attention most.


I love a practice that points my heart back to the why of the season- not a rigid, demanding, soul-crushing, legalistic practice, but an intentional, soul-forming, palms-open practice that invites communion with God.


I didn’t grow up practicing these things. I had never heard of Advent or Lent until a few years ago. I certainly had never given something up for Lent ever. How you grew up probably greatly affects the way you view these seasons now. If every year, you had to give something up for Lent and you had no idea why, well that might negatively affect how you view it now. But as I’ve learned more about it, it’s not the giving up that is the most important during Lent, it’s the making room.


If Lent could intensify and magnify the celebration of Easter and give it more meaning wouldn’t we want to experience that? If Lent could bring us into greater openness and connection with God wouldn’t we want that?


Lent is a time when we remember that we are dust, we are frail, we are human. We are not impressive. We are not machines. We cannot make things happen. We are dependent. We remember our humanness and we live in the reality of it. We name the truth of it. We name the things we lack, we name the places we are broken, we name the things we are disappointed in and the ways we disappoint ourselves. We don’t try to hide from the truth of our dirty beginning. We name it and let it be known. In his Lenten devotional, Falling into Goodness, Chuck DeGroat says, “You see, if God is God, then you don’t have to be. You can give up your relentless, exhausting attempt to be more than you are - richer, sexier, stronger. You can remember that ‘everything I have is already yours.’ You don’t need anything more. God is God, you’re not, and that’s that. You can remember. You can receive. You can rest, returning to the humble ground of your being.”



For Lent this year instead of giving something up, Steve and I decided to start practicing a weekly sabbath with our family. We have not gone whole hog with this. We are baby-stepping our way into it. And we are giving ourselves lots of grace to try it and not get it perfect.


For the last several Friday nights and one Saturday, we have been intentional about putting down phones, creating space for family fun, for delight, for good food, for relaxation, for lighting the good candles, for playing the best music, for reading a good book. We are looking into each other eyes over a good meal, we are laughing together, we are getting out games and playing together. It’s kind of beautiful because we’re getting to know each other better. It’s not that we don’t ever do these things at other times. But we are intentionally doing it now. We are starting an intentional practice that we look forward to each week. It’s kind of amazing when you slow down and pay attention to your right-now life how incredible it is, how precious it is- when you truly look at it, examine it, turn it over in your palm admiring the exquisite beauty God has designed in your life at this moment. It helps a lot of things that you thought mattered and were so important, just slip away.


This practice hasn’t been easy to start, we have had to remind our kids and ourselves to put down our phones over and over, we have had to deal with very busy schedules and the fact that sometimes we can’t have as long of a sabbath as we want or as we need. We have had to do this sometimes with a child missing because of a game or another commitment. But what we are starting is a practice, it’s not a perfection, not an achievement, a practice. The thing that makes it doable is that it comes around every week, and so every week we try again. Every week we practice this practice, and little by little it takes shape, our sabbath muscles grow stronger, our need and desire for it grows.


Sometimes we need to add something grand and monumental into our lives to help us get the most out of it, but more often we need to slow down and just pay attention to it. Notice the way it ebbs and flows, notice the beautiful people around us and the goodness they contribute to our lives, notice the beauty of stepping stones laid to help us cross the stream.


I’m so thankful for Lent, for the way it slows me down, makes me take stock of my humanness, my frailty, my need. I’m so thankful for sabbath, for the way it points out the goodness and the bounty I often miss right under my nose.


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