“What to do for Lent?” This was the question I asked myself as I drove to my Silicon Valley job on the morning of Ash Wednesday. The only thing I’d decided was to work through an email Lent devotional. But that wasn’t enough. I had a feeling God wanted to lead me somewhere else.
Giving up something for Lent is clichéd, but…
Asking “what to do for Lent?” is still a fairly new thing for me. I resist the idea of “giving up something for Lent” because it feels so cultural, even in a post-Christian context. At work, my friends (who are mostly atheist / agnostic / ehh, whatever) were jokingly asking each other, “Is that something you’re giving up for Lent?” I don’t see any spiritual seeking in it. It’s kind of like a New Year’s resolution, except with an end date.
I’m more drawn to the idea of doing something, rather than giving something up. But what if the two aren’t so different? What if giving something up for Lent isn’t pointless self-flagellation? What if it’s a journey to take with God? What if giving something up for Lent creates room to do something else?
That thought rang in my head as I continued my drive. Suddenly, I knew what to do for Lent this year…
What to do for Lent: Drive in silence
When I drive, I normally listen to the news, or to music. They help make the time go faster. But for now, my drives will now be silent, except for any noise I make myself: No NPR. No iTunes. No Pandora.
Maybe in Silicon Valley, Lent has more to do with slowing down.
Once while browsing a bookstore, I came across a beginner’s guide to meditation. Intrigued, I flipped through it. I was pleasantly surprised by what I read. “Meditation is the art of being with yourself.”
My not-so-quiet commutes would get me kicked out of a Zen monastery. But I’m practicing being with myself, in the presence of God:
- Sometimes I’m silent.
- Sometimes I pray aloud. I pray for my friends and coworkers, especially that they would experience how much God loves them. I pray about how to solve problems at work. I pray about anything that’s worrying me.
- As I drive to work, I think about how to approach the day. Some of this processing is done aloud.
- As I drive home from work, I consider what I learned and experienced that day.
- As I approach home, I give thanks for my family.
- Sometimes I sing. These are snatches of worship songs written by others. Sometimes, I just make stuff up in the moment to sing my own heart, my own prayers.
- Sometimes I pray in tongues. If that sounds weird, try this on: I’m basically chanting to center myself in the reality of God.
- Sometimes I’m silent again.
Silence is challenging in a world of noise. But consider this: sometimes, just breathing in & out is a victory (Ephesians 6:13).
What to do for Lent: Reduce numbing distractions
While driving, we often use news and music to make the time go faster. In other words, we use them to occupy ourselves. Their purpose is to numb us to the passing of time.
“How does this apply beyond driving?” I wondered. How many things do we use as distractions, just to numb ourselves? If we eliminate them (or even reduce them), we’re forced to spend more time with ourselves and others.
Maybe that’s where the real power of “giving something up for Lent” lies. Maybe in Silicon Valley, what to do for Lent has less to do with arbitrarily sacrificing something, and more to do with slowing down. Ask yourself:
- Do I fear the clock?
- Am I reluctant to be with myself without distractions?
- Am I reluctant to be with others without distractions?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, this may be the invitation you need. Discover what you use as self-numbing distractions. Then hit the “off” switch. See how the silence creates room for something else. In the tension, discover what God is saying to you.
Did this resonate with you? What distractions do you use? What are you doing for Lent? Share in the comments below!