Because my mother’s generation believed in spring cleaning, my sister and I learned the benefits of setting aside a specific time each year to deep clean. As girls, we spent several days each spring cleaning out shelves and drawers, gathering old clothes, dusting the ceilings, washing the windows, and washing everything in the house. All this work brought a great sense of accomplishment and a feeling of freshness to our lives.
Wednesday begins a spiritual season of heart cleaning known as Lent.
Lent is a forty-day preparation for Easter involving introspection and self-denial designed to lead to repentance and spiritual growth. During this period we remember the forty days of solitude Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry—a time when he gave up physical food for greater spiritual nourishment.
What do you think of when you hear the word Lent?
Having grown up in a church culture that was skeptical of Lent, all I knew about it was from friends at school who talked about what they were giving up. I’m not sure they really understood the spiritual purpose behind the practice. I now realize that Lent isn’t about what we give up but what we gain by disconnecting our affections to earthly things to grow our love for the eternal. Giving and sacrifice out of love for God are antidotes to our selfishness, and it usually takes a deliberate plan to get there, which Lent supplies.
Today sacrificing good things for our spiritual best may involve fasting from food or things like social media or computer games that distract us from what’s really important. Lent is a season for selflessly giving both our stuff, by generously providing for the needs of others, and also our time, by using more of it with God and less for self gratification. As we practice Lent, we open ourselves to God’s great work spring cleaning our hearts.
Soon I’ll attend an Ash Wednesday service and begin fasting from something good to pursue what’s so much better. I’ll read daily Lenten readings or devotionals to help clean out my soul to draw me closer to Christ. And I’ll choose to give more away to those in need.
I hope you will consider doing some spring soul cleaning of your own. I would love to hear your stories.
This post is a revised version of a post from March 2011 in Beyond, a blog no longer online.