Response: March 2014 Issue

A Holy Lent

Like Spring Cleaning, Lent Clears the Way for New Life to Emerge.

A Holy Lent
Like spring cleaning, Lent is a good time to “weed” your spirit so that it can grow.

Garden cleanup in March is one of my favorite activities. Where fall cleanup is mostly about getting the leaves and sticks out of the way before the first frost comes and the ground hardens, spring cleanup means raking up the winter debris to find the promise of new life underneath. My heart is happy at the sight of bulbs beginning to sprout and those few resilient plants thriving under the protection of leftover leaves. The moist dirt is dark, emitting the hopeful scent of a fresh season on the brink of arrival. This annual cleanup is an important step that opens the space for plants to grow and flourish.

The spring garden cleanup experience is a useful metaphor for the Lenten season. Once a year, in preparation for Easter, the Christian community focuses 40 days on what is essentially a spring cleanup: gathering up and getting rid of the stuff that has accumulated and can potentially create a barrier to our spiritual growth. Living into Lent means redirecting our energies from the hustle and bustle of what we have come to experience as normal and to focus our attention and intention on what is blocking the way for deeper connection with the Holy. It is a season designed for cleaning up the junk so that something new may emerge and transformation can take place.

Historically, Lent is a time to engage in a particular discipline that reflects a shift in our regular daily rhythm. Often, the discipline we choose takes the form of giving up something. But we must be careful not to see the season as one of sacrifice or challenge simply for the sake of proving that we are capable of it. The objective of Lent is soul-readiness. It is a set-aside season meant to clear away the debris so that the power of the resurrection can burst in.

Lenten disciplines can be almost anything. Traditional options include getting involved in a Bible study group, setting aside a time each morning for personal prayer or attending worship events more often. But the opportunities are endless. You may want to try a "financial fast" by committing to no unnecessary purchases during the season. Or you may vow to commit an anonymous act of kindness each day. Perhaps you will choose visiting ailing members of your community or babysitting for parents who can use a break or writing a note to someone just to say you care. Though there is a breadth of possibility, be careful to design a practice that will enhance your spiritual life. Just adding more activity into your schedule will not get the results for which you are yearning.

United Methodist Women members are people of action. Use this holy season to remember why. Nurture the bond between yourself and Christ. This bond is the source of United Methodist Women members' faith, hope and love. Through this bond United Methodist Women members hear and answer the call to mission with women, children, youth and the left out, from generation to generation. Psalm 118:21 says, "I thank you that you have answered me and become my salvation." Call upon the Lord and rejoice as God becomes your salvation in surprising new ways.

Clean up now so that when the incredible power of the resurrection story is unveiled you are ready to respond!

The Rev. Sharon L. Vandegrift is an elder in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church and executive director of Bridge the Gap Life Coaching Services. Ms. Vandegrift is the author of Keeping Your Balance and a frequent contributor to response.

Posted or updated: 3/4/2014 11:00:00 PM