Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season.
As somebody who didn’t grow up observing the Church calendar, I have come to truly appreciate the particular rhythms and movements that the Church seasons bring. Lent is no exception.
In the past, I have appreciated Lent for the ways that it calls for return and repentance, for the opportunities to recognize my own brokenness and need for Jesus. I have appreciated the ways that wilderness becomes a place where my soul is formed and forged. I have appreciated the opportunity to choose fasting, not as a form of punishment or restriction, but as a pathway to greater freedom. I have appreciated times to lament and repent of our nation’s history of injustice. Through the lengthiness, intentionality, and discipline that comes with the Lenten season, I have come face to face with the slow and intentional road towards death, which makes room for resurrection.
Lent makes room for me to embrace my own mortality, and to turn to the God who meets me there with mercy.
This year, as I reflect on the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I am choosing to press into Lenten practices that remind me of my own mortality- that I am but dust. In the face of our ever-busy culture, the illusions of limitlessness that come with mini-computers at our fingertips, and the temptations (as a working mom) to try to “have it all,” embracing my mortality means choosing to have intentional limits in my life. By choosing specific practices of abstinence and engagement, I hope to embrace my humanity more.
So this year, I am choosing intentional limitations on my technology use. From now until Easter, I will be off Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram- not because those are bad things- but because I have found myself endlessly scrolling through my days, without limit and without end. To do so, I am deleting those apps from my phone and am turning my phone off from 10pm-7pm, as a reminder that the world will not end if I turn my phone off. I hope to spend that away from my phone engaging in more embodied practices- talking to my husband or friends, breathing, stretching (which I absolutely hate doing!), reading Scripture, and taking care of my own mortal body.
As an act of having limitations, I am also choosing to fast from saying “yes” to new commitments without having a discernment process. Because of my performance-orientation and people-pleasing tendencies, I am very quick to say “yes” to any good opportunity that comes my way, and I hope to be more intentional about creating processes of prayerful discernment and communal accountability before saying “yes” to commitments.
Finally, as an act of embracing my own mortality, I am choosing to drink only water during the Lenten season. I hope for this to be an act of choosing limits in the face of all the various drink options are available to me. But I also hope for this to be an act that reminds me of all the people in the world who don’t have clean water to drink. I plan to donate to Charity Water at the end of Lent, in correspondence with the money I saved from not buying drinks.
I recognize that these small disciplines are not some magical solution to “fixing” my life or my relationship with God. That is not what Lent is for. But I hope and pray that in those moments of longing, temptation, and failure in my fast, that I will remember my own mortality and find solace in my own creaturely nature. I hope and pray that God will remind me of my utter need for grace, and teach me how to both turn inward and turn Godward every day.
May God meet you richly during this Lent, and may we all find the freedom that comes from living as fully human during this season.