Lent is only a few weeks away and many of us are already thinking about what we will give up for the season. Once only practiced by catholic and liturgical churches, Lent is now popular amongst churches of all traditions. To be honest however, I get sick and tired of people telling me they are going to give up chocolate or T.V. for Lent, not because I don’t think this type of self sacrifice is important but because I feel it trivializes Lent.
There are two types of spiritual practices we need in our lives – those that restore and those that transform. Lent was meant to be a season of transformation, but we have made it more into one of restoration.
Restorative practices, are the daily, weekly and yearly habits that anchor our faith and reassure us of the importance of what we believe. Practices like daily prayer, Sunday church, Easter and Christmas, reaffirm our sense of order and meaning in the universe, our community and our own lives. Most importantly, they intentionally connect our daily activities to the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Transformative practices are characterized by a high degree of creativity and have little repetitive structure. They cut through the established way of doing things and restore a measure of flexibility and personal intimacy. They stop our restorative practices from becoming boring and stagnant and enable our faith to grow, adapt and change.
Lent was specifically designed for transformation. It was once about preparation for baptism and our entry into resurrection life, but for most, it now focuses more on sacrifice and death, often with little expectation of ongoing change in our lives. The focus has moved from Easter Sunday to Good Friday and our entering into Christ’s crucifixion and death.
So how do we invite the spirit of God into that creative process? We need to bring about transformation so that we can enter the resurrected life of Easter?
Take an Artist Date.
In Restoring the Wellsprings: A Lenten Retreat into Creative Practice, the authors suggest taking an “artist date” each week in Lent.
Once a week, it’s your job to take yourself out to have fun for an hour or two. Do it alone, and choose something that you might not normally allow yourself: an excursion to a gallery to look at art; a trip to a fabric store; a walk in a public garden you love, or have always wanted to visit; a ferry ride to explore the Island. This should be gratuitous and self-indulgent. In short, you are to give up self-denial for Lent.”
The place we need to start is with more fun and creativity. Experiences like this free our minds to think outside the box and restore that flexibility we so desperately need to reshape our spiritual lives and draw closer to God.
Get Out and Take Notice.
Over the last few years, I have been encouraged by fellow journeyers to get out and take notice of my neighbourhood, God’s creation and the people who populate it. I have learned to take the practices of Lectio divina and Visio divina, out into the world around me. I love exploring the neighbourhood graffiti, murals and garden art. I love observing the people Tom and I pass as we walk and taking notice of the new plants emerging and the migratory birds on the lake. This has freed my spirit to listen deeply and observe all that happens around me, inspiring me to incorporate new practices into my spiritual life in ways I could never have imagined even five years ago.
Give Free Reign to Creativity.
I think that by now, most of you realize that I am a strong advocate for free form creative practices like doodling, walking a finger labyrinth, and painting on rocks. Even crafts like knitting and woodworking can spur creativity and improve our problem solving ability. Consider setting aside time for one of these practices each week during Lent. Perhaps you would like to knit a prayer shawl or craft a toy for a disabled kid you know. Such practices are guaranteed to inspire new creative spiritual practices too.
Get Out and Have Some Fun
We all need to play. Making a mess, getting dirty, colouring, playing sports, are all rejuvenating practices that free us from inflexible thought patterns and routines. In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never have time for pure fun. Just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously and make life all about work.
Perhaps Lent is a time to let go of control over what we do and hand the plan of celebrations over to our kids. I mentioned in my last year’s post Five Ways to Foster Creativity In Kids During Lent, how meaningful it was to give five-year-old Catie control of creativity for Easter. We underestimate the creativity of kids and their ability to shape their practices as well as our own.
Focus on Life Not Death.
As you walk through Lent, are you hungering for life or death? Are your practices focused on the cross or the kingdom? How would it change our Lenten practices if our goal was resurrection living rather then Cross walking? Lent is a time to daydream, to imagine new possibilities for the in-breaking of God’s new world.
What are the aspects of God’s longed-for new world that gnaws at your heart, making you want to respond? A few years ago, I did a series of posts on What Does the Kingdom of God Look Like? that you might like to read through as you contemplate this question.
Or read through these inspiring words from Isaiah 65:17-25. This is one of my favourite passages of inspiration and hope about the kingdom of God. I read it frequently as a way to keep myself focused on God’s purposes not just for me but for the entire creation.
Lent has become a popular practice for people of all Christian traditions in the last few years. I hope that you will consider observing it this year and walk with us into God’s kingdom ways.
You might also like to check out some of my Lenten resource lists – I am in the process of updating these so if you know of “must add” resources, please let me know.
Ash Wednesday Prayers – with links to those from previous years.
I have also added several posts this year on creativity and Lent:
Please check out our complete list of Godspace resources for Lent through Holy Week