I often tell the story of how my son, when aged 6, was asked what he was giving up for lent. Without a moment of hesitation, he replied, 'Vegetables!' So often the season of Lent has been condensed to be just about 'giving something up' yet it is about so much more. Lent is a time of the year when the Christian Church reflects on the last days of Jesus' earthly life, his struggles within and with those around him; his courageous decision to hand himself over to others so that we might know the deep and unconditional love of God for ourselves.
In years past, Lent was a time of repentance, of turning your back on sin and seeking God, however most of us aren't really dreadful sinners, are we? So, what does Lent mean for us? Perhaps our lives are a bit like a house whose occupants have gone away for a while – everything is quite neat and tidy but there is a film of dust over everything – the dust that takes the spiritual lustre from our lives. It is the dust of complacency, of apathy, it is dust that accumulates when we are too busy to care, it is the dust of unattended relationships, withheld apologies, face-saving untruths, small moral lapses, the suppression of our spiritual yearning, our terrible hunger for God, for meaning and love.
Lent therefore is the time to recognize the dust that has accumulated in our lives, and, through prayer & reflection, to allow ourselves to 'be dusted', refreshed, and renewed.
The point of a spring clean is that it offers us a new beginning, a changed house, a renewed sense of purpose. Lent, then, isn't just about inward reflection but outward change and action. Having cleaned away the dust, how might my house be a place of hospitality, welcome and care? How might I live a little differently in my care of others and the planet?
Although Lent is a time of self-appraisal and challenge of the status quo it should ultimately lead to Easter transformation for ourselves and those around us. So, this Lent, don't just give up chocolate or cake but think about how you might change one thing in your life that will bring hope to another. For then the joy of Easter becomes a living reality.