A holy Lent, revisited

ash_2What does it mean to keep a holy Lent?

When I was a little girl, the principle focus was on giving up something (inevitably, in my case, sweets), and putting the money I would have spent on it into my mite box, to help poor children in other lands. When the season of penitence was ended, we brought our offerings up to the altar, building a rather imposing wall from them. In our household, prayer was a given, supervised at meals and at bedtime by my mother.

As I grew older, my practice varied. There were years when I did nothing to observe Lent, and years in which I misused it as an opportunity for non-spiritual self-improvement. There were years in which I was overly obsessed with it, and years in which I was balanced in my Lenten practices. For several years in my teens, I took the gospel for the day too literally, and declined ashing. Four years ago, wrung out by chemotherapy and engaged in a healthy prayer life, I just kept doing what I’d been doing for the last months before Ash Wednesday. There was nothing more that I could add or subtract.

For the most part, however, I now strive to take things on, rather than give them up, to live in an intentional manner and to maintain it as best I can when Lent gives way to Easter joy.

This Lent finds me in a thoughtful place. The Grace Prayer Network has been essentially dormant for a while, fallout from my second cancer and other changes to my life. I’ve had some disappointments that didn’t seem suitable for sharing publicly. The original cancer returned last fall, now promoted to Stage 4. On a very mundane level, the treatments and medications consume energy, and sometimes my good intentions collapse into inertia.

Working on GPN, though, helps me to sort through things in a meaningful and spiritual way. This Lent, I’ll strive to return to that, using some of the time I’ve spent on pursuits like social media and word games for the purpose. It won’t be daily, but it will be reasonably frequent. I invite you to join me in the journey. I welcome contributions to the site, and your own thoughts on the meaning of Lent.

– Sarah Bryan Miller

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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