Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Ash Wednesday is around the corner, and I am looking forward to it. Perhaps it’s a strange personality quirk (or my Enneagram 7 enthusiastic outlook on life) but I have always enjoyed Lent. Ash Wednesday and Lent were days I experienced as unique from the rest of the year, like a communal diet or exercise regimen I participated in with other Christians. I loved getting ashes smudged on my forehead and seeing others with the same mark and feeling a warm sense of solidarity. I’m not a very disciplined person, so Lent was always an opportunity to strip away excess in my life, alongside others, like a team effort. Looking back, I think I saw it as a bit of “sacrificial fun” before Easter.
One of my friends recently noted that this entire past year has felt like Lent, and not in a fun way like I had framed it, but in a difficult and exhausting way. What she said rang true: for 300+ days we have been giving things up. Whether willingly or by mandate, we have given up the things we most cherish—fun, friends, personal liberties, peace and quiet, hugs, handshakes, church services, sporting events, coffee shops…the list is endless.
Since March of 2020, it is as if we have been living through a continual season of fasting and sacrificing. The type of sacrifices we have made were not made merely as a spiritual practice done out of religious devotion, but for the purpose of collective safety and health. And for that reason, our sacrifices not being solely for our ourselves, but for others, makes those sacrifices more sacred than we realize.
During Lent, we sacrifice to prepare ourselves for baptism—for new life with Christ; our desire is to strip away the distractions that keep us from focusing on Christ. Perhaps this year, we have experienced a longer time of preparation—a whole year of fasting rather than 40 days. With so much stripped away, perhaps we are more ready than ever to fix our eyes on Christ, and commune with fellow believers in prayer to experience the life in abundance that Jesus promised in John 10:10.
One of the ways I best connect with God is through prayerfully reading scripture: reflecting on its meaning, responding with action, and resting in God’s presence. This rhythm of Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest is a form of Lectio Divina, or sacred reading/listening, an ancient Christian practice that invites you to notice what the Holy Spirit may be saying to you through scripture.
Lectio Divina can be done individually or with others. During this time of solitude and social-distancing, I want to remember God’s promises alongside other Christians, specifically other women and non-binary folks who love God and hear from the Holy Spirit. As a result, I reached out to friends I have met along my spiritual journey—from seminary, church, mission work and spiritual direction. Over 55 people responded to the call by writing a reflection on the scripture passage that resonated with them from the lectionary (church calendar). The writers participating in this Lent Devotional are from varying Christian denominations, some are pastors or spiritual directors and others hold jobs outside of the Church. The women and transgender persons involved are from all over the globe, of different ethnicities, races, sexual-orientations and gender identities, political persuasions and theological positions, yet we all hold one thing in common—our willingness to hear from the Holy Spirit and reflect on the Divine Mystery.
I am now extending the invitation to you. I invite you to join us on this Lenten journey of holy listening, meeting God in the scripture—reading, reflecting, responding and resting in God’s presence through our version of Lectio Divina. Please join us each day from Ash Wednesday (February 17, 2021) through Easter (April 4, 2021) and then each Sunday through Pentecost (May 23, 2021) for a scripture reflection and prayer written by a fellow sibling in Christ. You can follow along with us by requesting the PDF version of the Lent Devotional by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by subscribing to the daily blog posts at spiritualdirectionwithjulia.com.
We have endured a long and weary season of sacrifice. My prayer is that this Lent and Easter devotional will help all of us connect with God in a way that brings new life, and that the sacrifices we made for one another will bear fruit, not just in our communities but also in our souls.
I hope you join us on this Lenten journey.