Making space for life and hope in Lent
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This week brought pancakes on Tuesday, then Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the church season of Lent - journeying towards Easter.
Lent doesn’t have the same commercial appeal as Advent. No Lenten calendars of gin and chocolate, but a tradition of giving things up.
This year, I think most of us have already lost too much - from Covid-19, lockdown, and more. I also believe God wants us to have life in all its fullness. So, can we make Lent more positive, making space for life and hope?
For some people, endless locked-down days mean too much time and space. In those contexts, it may help to create a framework of activities. A personal challenge or timeslot could offer structure for fuller life to grow around.
For others, the combination of care, work, home-schooling and other tasks means that adding anything is impossible. Perhaps something that we’re already doing can be tweaked, to feed our soul rather than drain us.
Beyond our diverse contexts, we are also very different people. What brings one person life can be a chore for another. What enables each of us to encounter a higher power or deeper spirit will vary.
A Canadian theologian, David Csinos, has suggested that children encounter God through four general approaches.
While that broadens as we grow up, some things will always fit us better. So, if we’re going to make space for fuller life in Lent, it’s going to look and feel different for each of us.
The four “spiritual styles” Csinos labels as word, emotion, symbol and action. These aren’t boxes to put ourselves in, but preferences that it can be helpful to explore.
For example, you might tackle big questions by thinking things through. Maybe regular reading, writing or podcasts would suit you, or calling someone who’ll discuss life, the universe and everything, or even helping with some relevant schoolwork. That would be the word style.
Maybe music transforms moments of your day, whether singing or dancing, seeking out particular music, or playing an instrument. Perhaps creation touches your soul, wondering at beauty and growth. These could feed an emotion style.
Amongst everything, perhaps you cherish silence. Will some colouring or lighting a candle give you space to encounter mystery? Short meditations are available online, from faith communities and mindfulness organisations. The symbol style may value such approaches.
For many, engagement with our spiritual being comes through action. When we do things for others or for the world, we may express our deepest selves. Buying Fairtrade, making changes to tackle climate change, challenging injustice – sending a card to someone, sharing some baking – these are all actions that can sustain action people.
So, what might help you? What could offer space for greater fullness of life in the coming weeks?
Might there be ways of transforming wee moments in the busyness, or giving some structure in the emptiness?
I hope and pray you may encounter yourself, your God, and greater life and love, today and in the days ahead.
Rev Jenny Adams is minister of Hopeman, Duffus and Spynie Church of Scotland. Read her exclusive column here each fortnight.