Lent as a Season of Contemplation*

I have never had consistent engagement with the season of Lent. I resonate with what W. David O. Taylor has to say in this Christianity Today article: “Each year, around the latter part of winter, Lent arrives. It nearly always surprises me. Here it is, once again, summoning me to change how I typically live.” Some years, Lent sneaks up on me and I find myself ill-prepared. Other years, my life is colored by deep grief, and I can’t imagine giving something up when it feels like my life is already barren. And still other years, I approach Lent with enough interior space to wonder about God’s invitations for me in this important season of preparation.
I’m grateful that, whatever my participation (or disengagement) in Lent, each year brings a new opportunity. My appreciation for the church calendar and the rhythms of worship continues to grow each year. Even if I miss some of the richness of the season in a given year, I know that I will have another opportunity the next year. His mercies are new every morning—and every year!
This year, I find myself ready to engage in the season of Lent, which starts on March 2nd. I’m planning to read through Sister Wendy Beckett’s lovely book, The Art of Lent. My colleague, Cindy Bunch, often uses the Praying in Color templates, which I love. Some friends of mine are committing to engage in an act of service each day as a family: picking up trash, bringing food to a neighbor, shoveling snow, etc. What does God have for you to do and experience this Lent?
Lori Neff

Lori Neff
IVP and Formatio Marketing Manager, IVP
Walk at a Human Pace
By Ashley Hales
For many of us Protestants, Lent feels like a distinctively Catholic thing. Going to a Catholic high school, I first heard about Lent there; my friends gave up chocolate for Lent, but just sort of. Since then, I’ve seen the helpfulness and beauty of the church calendar, and, I practice Lent, too. But often we have some mistaken ideas about what this time is all about. 

We have the idea that if we give up chocolate, or alcohol, or Netflix, that we’ll be better Christians. Lent, as a spiritual practice, is something we often engage in to curry favor from a holy God. He’s sure to be happy if we limit ourselves, if we fast, if we confess our sins more often. Or at least if we give up chocolate for 40 days.

But like many things in the church, the church calendar is meant to help order our affections towards God. It doesn’t mean that we somehow earn favor or special standing. It does not make us better or change our justification. However, these practices shape us, too — not in order to earn favor with God but as a way to be God’s apprentices and follow how He says life works best. Dallas Willard reminds us: 

“We should not only want to be merciful, kind, unassuming, and patient persons but also be making plans to become so” (The Divine Omission, 29). 

Lent helps us make plans towards becoming more like Jesus. 

Lent, particularly, is about practicing going without— in order to wean our tastes from the sugary spirituality we might be ingesting, to retrain our tastebuds for the goodness of God. Lent isn’t about making ourselves smaller to be seen by a holy God. Lent is an intentional time in the church calendar where we see what is already there — we are fragile creatures, limited in our bodies, minds, and souls and limited in our desires and affections.
Ashley Hales
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*InterVarsity Press: ivpress.com

What does Lent 2022 look like to you? How will it differ from 2020 and/or 2021?

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