It’s time, or maybe a little past time, to get ready for Lent, that season of reflection, introspection, and penitence that leads up to Easter. Below are a few suggestions for how to prepare for and observe Lent 2021.
- Make a list of those whom you know you have wronged over the last year and with whom you never made reconciliation. Reach out to them and offer reconciliation. It is not their job to accept your apology though. All you can do is offer your willingness to admit you were in the wrong. No matter whether they accept your apology or not, it is still incumbent on you to make the changes in your life so you don’t go on doing the same things over and over again.
- Look over this list again and see if there are any patterns to your behavior. If there are, it may be worth while to talk to a therapist, spiritual counselor, friend, or make an appointment for a personal confession.
- Fasting is very common for folks. You can fast from all kinds of things: single-use plastics, an unhealthy habit, food, gossip, or anything that will help you stay mindful for the day or season.
- Alms-giving is also a popular way to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent more generally. The amount of money given is not important, it is the act of giving away something that feels vital to our life so that another person can live. If you need help looking for places to give, the United Way is a good place to start, as they have a list of community partners. Guidestar is also a good resource. I personally use Kiva.org for micolending overseas. If you need help making a minimum donation, let me know.
- Don’t forget the classics of food/money to a food bank, diapers, socks, or other forgotten necessities to a homeless shelter, or spending the day (safely) volunteering.
- Sabbath. Take a sabbath day on Ash Wednesday, if it is possible, or take it on another day. Take a day away from making, producing, or working at your occupation in any way, shape, or form. Take one whole day to just relax, pray, be with others and God, be present to the world, and realize your human worth is not tied to any activity other than your being. If a whole day is intimidating, start with a half-day and keep practicing.
Also remember that these recommendations are for you reaching out to the people you have wronged and that forgiveness is a process. It is not always safe to be in contact with people you are in the process of forgiving. It is also not always possible to forgive on this side of the eternal veil. You also never have to talk to someone to forgive them. You can just say it to the breeze and let yourself be lightened by the experience. You do not owe your giving of forgiveness to anyone but yourself and God. The point is to practice living a life of forgiveness and grace for ourselves and others so be gentle with yourself. If there is that person or group you aren’t ready to forgive, don’t force it or pretend. Let God and your friends help carry the load with you until you’re ready, even if you’re not ready till that Last Great Day.
I hope these thoughts help and feel free to reach out if you have and thoughts or questions or leave them in the comments below. Also, reach out if you would like to come to St. A’s Ash Wednesday Service on February 17, 2021 at 6:30 PM (email@example.com).