Life, Lent, and the Pursuit of Holiness

Lent is fast approaching, and yet again I am assaulted with the pressing question: “What are you giving up this year?”

Pause and rewind here. What is Lent, you ask?

In many Protestant Christian denominations, Lent is celebrated as a 40-day period of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s a season that helps us reconnect spiritually in preparation for the celebration of Easter, through giving our time to a cause, going without specific foods in a literal fast, or simply devoting ourselves to a spiritual discipline. If you’d like to know more about Lent as celebrated in various churches, go ahead and google it! There’s plenty of interesting information out there.

Lent is a tradition that for me goes far back into my childhood!

My mother and granny always gave up sweets/chocolate, with the exception of birthday cake (of course!). I always remember competing with my best friend Bethany to see who was giving up the “biggest” thing– she normally always won.

Disclaimer: Lent is a personal discipline that is not meant to be a competition!
Tell that to a seven-year-old…

Young Mandi always chose to give up Dr. Pepper. Older Mandi consistently gave up Facebook each year. First year college student Mandi decided to give up all beef for Lent (which ended VERY badly, as beef is my all-time favorite food. Let’s just say, I was turned into a consistently angry monster by Easter).

A Wordle of the below words shows the relative frequency of each one.
The Top 100 Things Twitterers gave up for Lent in 2009

This year, I am looking at Lent with new eyes. Recently I have been very into the idea of honoring tradition and ritual in my everyday life as part of pursuing joyful living. I have realized slowly but surely that I long to live a life steeped in things that are sacred.

Especially in a culture where little to nothing is kept holy– not our forests, our families, our vows, our beliefs, our creativity, our art, our own souls– my heart yearns for a life of reverence for all things beautiful, living, and holy.

This Lenten season, I have decided to not “give up” anything in particular. Instead, I have made the decision to enhance a sense of holiness in my life. I have a few ideas for what this might mean for me:

  • A dedicated and renewed effort to have personal quiet time in the morning for meditation, journaling, reflection, study, and prayer. (This requires actually getting out of bed instead of hitting the snooze…)
  • Creating more of a respectful and ritual-based relationship with the physical symbols of holiness in my life. For me, this might mean ritually washing my hands before opening my Bible, creating a special altar or resting place for the scriptures, or designating a prayer corner.
  • A new dedication to living life with intention, being present and engaged in each moment.
Lent is a wonderful time for me to realize what my soul needs spiritually; recognizing that need and fulfilling it through dedicated choices is part of my journey toward being the keeper of my own flame.
I hope all of you have a fulfilling and meaningful Lenten season, whether you chose to celebrate it or not!

“To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson