Lent is an annual Christian religious observance of 40 days, from Ash Wednesday through 6 weeks lasting until Easter Sunday. Believers are expected to prepare themselves spiritually by saying special prayers and blessings, doing acts of penance, repenting for their sins, almsgiving, making atonement and performing acts of self-denial. Frequently persons will abstain from eating meat, enjoying their favorite foods or denying themselves some gratification for the duration.
Lent honors the the story of the 40 days Jesus spent alone in the desert prior to beginning his public ministry which culminated in his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. During that time, the New Testament tells us Jesus fasted in the desert and overcame a series of temptations by the Devil. Indeed, for most Christians, Lent is a sacred time for self-reflection and preparation for Easter, the most holy day of the Christian year.
As a boy and young adult, I took Lent very seriously practicing a wide range of spiritual techniques based on what I realize now were very negative messages regarding my sinful unworthiness. I profoundly accepted that I was a bad boy born with the defect of original sin. I harbored guilt and sorrow quite well and could easily remind myself of my sins, faults and weaknesses.
Since then, I’ve spent the past 35 years of my professional life counseling thousands of people. Almost every person I’ve encountered as a pastoral counselor or minister is broken in some way. Broken thoughts, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken spirits – we are broken. Indeed, I’ve spent most of my life helping people fix themselves.
I do not dishonor Lent or its spiritual practices. I am aware that most Christians find purpose, meaning and comfort in the season.
But this Lent, I am an interfaith minister. My meditation shows me a different path. I choose to share it in the hopes that it may resonate with some blog followers looking for an alternative road to healing.
This Lent, I’m suggesting 40 days of self-acceptance.
Think about it.
What would it be like if you prayed for and blessed yourself?
If your special prayers included gratitude for being created in the image and likeness of the Universe?
If your repentance included your own self-forgiveness?
If your set money aside to to provide a little bit of charity for yourself?
If your atonement for your sins/failings/mistakes included making amends to yourself?
If you practiced acts of self-approval, self-affirmation and self-acceptance?
Imagine celebrating the very best of who you are…your real self-worth…for 40 days.
40 days of positive inner conversations; 40 days of focused attention on who you are and where you’re going; 40 days of self-nurturing.
I dare say we’re all really excellent sinners. We know how to do bad things quite well – to ourselves and to each other. We’ve got evil down.
We’re already masters at malicious thoughts, angry feelings, unhealthy behaviors and disillusioned spirits.
This Lent, consider some self-love. I am especially shouting out to those of you are struggle with depression, anxiety and addiction.
Consider making this Lent different.
I’m not talking narcissistic, exaggerated self-importance or public ego games played out in social media.
I am talking celebrating the best of who you are while trying on some new ways to experience yourself with less judgment and a little more adventure.
Celebrate your miracle. Happy Lent!
As always, I welcome your comments. Blessings.