Have you ever noticed how many rules we like to impose on ourselves sometimes? Or maybe it’s just me. I especially have a tendency to do this when it comes to my faith. I have to pray the right way or not at all. (I’m not even sure I know what “the right way” is or if there even is a “right way” but still I berate myself for doing it “wrong”. I don’t pray long enough. I don’t pray often enough. And I don’t say the right words. Whew. So, there have been times in the past when I’ve sighed and thought, I’ve messed up Lent. I started with my plans but after 3 days I gave up. Or I didn’t even start at all. So, I ruined it. Better luck next year. EXCEPT that it’s not too late to observe Lent. In fact, it’s never too late.
Even this year, I’ve had feelings of being tempted to just give up on Lent because I haven’t done all the things I wanted to do. “Sorry God, I’ll try again next year.” But just as I was ready to toss it aside, I took a pause and prayed about it instead. That’s a new habit I’m trying to develop. Take a pause and pray. And through my prayer, the words that I just kept hearing on repeat inside my head were “It’s not too late”. As I reflected on that, a few things occurred to me.
I was trying to “do Lent” without God. How crazy is that? The whole point of a Lenten journey is to move closer to God. Yet, when I struggled in my journey (lack of time, lack of energy, lack of motivation even), I didn’t turn to God and ask for help. Instead, I tried to prove what an amazing Christian I am by doing it all myself. I was placing perfectionism at a higher level of importance than God.
There are still 20 days left until Easter. Stop focusing on what you haven’t done. Look forward to what you can do now.
5 Quick and Easy Ways to Observe Lent Right Now
1. You’re reading this. Clearly you care and that means a lot all in itself. Now stop reading this post (it’s okay – you can come back to it later!) and ask God for help. Just listen for a few minutes. You may not feel like you hear anything from God right away and that’s all right. Often, after I ask for help, it comes to me in the next few days. Suddenly (or so it seems), there will be some opportunity before me just staring me in the face – as if by coincidence. Or, as I like to call it, God-incidence.
2. Go to Bible Gateway and read their Lenten reading of the day. It should take no more than 5-10 minutes. If you have a few more minutes, you could mull or pray over what you’ve read. Or maybe you’d prefer to journal about it. But even if you don’t, those words will be in your heart and mind for the rest of the day. They can prove meaningful for you in ways you can’t even anticipate at the time.
3. Take out a piece of paper. If you have some colored pencils, grab those too. If not, just use any pen or pencil you have at hand. What comes to mind when you hear Jesus’ name? Now get creative! If you like to sketch, you could draw an image of what comes to mind. Or maybe you want to draw simple symbols to signify your thoughts. If drawing isn’t relaxing for you, how about just brainstorming a list or mind map of the words and phrases as they enter your thoughts? Keep it simple or make it colorful. Your choice.
4. Is your schedule jam-packed? Don’t stress yourself out by trying to squeeze in some extra Lenten activities in the next couple weeks. But can you take a moment and plan for even just ONE hour of time during Holy Week? You could attend Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Or there are plenty of online Stations of the Cross videos and devotionals available if it’s easier to do them from home. Perhaps you could devote 30 minutes to some silent prayer time alone on Holy Saturday. Or maybe you could have a very simple Last Supper and foot washing activity with your family on Holy Thursday.
5. Put on a cross. Or place one where you’ll see it every day. No crosses handy? How about a piece of black cloth? Or a nail? I have a big nail sitting on my bedside table. Every time I notice it, I think about what Jesus did for me. And I thank Him.
Lent doesn’t have to be showy. Or as my daughter says, it doesn’t have to be extra. Lent can be small simple moments. In fact, that’s where I find God most often – in those small simple moments of my every day life.
Looking for more ideas for observing Lent?
99 Creative Ideas for What to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (yes, you can still do this! Do it for one week. One weekend. One day. Even just one hour.)
50 Ways to Share Lent with Your Children (sharing Lent with your family is a double blessing – for you and for them)