Today is Ash Wednesday, and so Lent begins for the year. I have always struggled with whether and what to give up for Lent. Any regular self-improvement kind of themes (no sugar, no booze, less screen-time) feel more like New Year’s Resolution Take 2 and don’t really seem to get to the point of preparation for Easter (for me anyway – though probably because I am yet to grasp the discipline of fasting).
There are probably a dozen different alternatives: increasing spiritual practices, using the congregation’s incredible Lent book to prompt daily meditations, booking that jet and journeying to Jerusalem itself. But for me, for this Lent, I am going to give up listening to the hyper-critical nagging voice in my head.
I suspect many of you may know the one I am talking about: that voice that is quick to berate myself whenever I err and convinces me that little screw ups are Big Deals. The part of me that too harshly and too quickly judges not only myself but others. The thought-trains that overanalyse conversations and interactions and what I packed in my son’s lunch box. This voice that takes up a huge amount of energy and headspace that I suspect could otherwise be filled with drawing closer to God.
This voice has been around for a good while and I know it won’t disappear just because it’s Ash Wednesday and I’ve decided it should. But this Lent, when that nagging berating voice starts up, I will be trying to (a) notice those thoughts for what they are – just thoughts – and (b) step away from them in my mind with a deep breath and a ‘draw me nearer Lord’. In doing so I hope to make that Road to Jerusalem just a bit clearer and less cluttered for this year’s journey.
In love and peace
PS. Please forgive the self-indulgence of this email! As with our Lent book (start reading here), we are encouraged at this time to share our own stories and reflection, as well as our responses to others. I look forward to reading all your contributions and discussing them with you – and if you have any thoughts on if and what to give up for Lent, I’d be so interested to hear them!