What does God desire for me this Lent?

Lent. A word that evokes many images – prayer, fasting, sacrifice, penance and ‘giving up something.’ 

All these can be good and helpful – but only if we see them as a means to an end. They are not an end in themselves. If giving up chocolate or alcohol or fasting from social media helps us make more space for God, great! All too often though, these things become the goal and a distraction to the very thing we want to facilitate. We end up feeling chuffed with ourselves for having gotten through another day without chocolate – or disappointed that we caved in. Our focus becomes ourselves and not God or others.

Lent isn’t a willpower marathon or self-improvement programme. Or even a second shot at discarded New Year’s resolutions. If it is all about me, and how I want to improve my life, what space is there to notice and receive God’s gifts? The focus is not what I give up or take on. But rather, how can I make space to receive what God is offering me.

It might help to take a different starting place from – “what should I do this Lent?” Take some time to speak with God about what God’s hopes are for you and your relationship with God this Lent. Perhaps ponder, “What does God desire for me this Lent.” Then consider what practice or practices might help to facilitate this.

For example, if God desires for me to feel less frazzled and more able to take time in God’s company, I may need to lower my expectations of myself in some area and stop trying to meet every demand.

Perhaps God desires that I see my body as God’s temple. Letting go of some substance which hurts my body and intentionally doing something that nurtures my body might help me to receive this gift.

God longs for me to encounter God’s gifts in and through creation. A reflective daily walk in nature might help me slow down and notice. That might spill over into being more intentional about how my actions impact the environment.

There may be some injustice in the world around me that moves me. Perhaps God invites me to do something about it this Lent.

God always desires my freedom. Is there an attachment like excessive food, alcohol, pornography, or an abusive relationship that leaves me trapped? If so, Lent could be an invitation for me to pray for the grace to let go of that thing, person or activity and to find the help and support I need to be able to do so.

Lent is about a renewal of our relationship with God. May our Lenten practices enable that, so that when Easter comes, we are ready to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and all within us that God yearns to bring to new life.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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