I hear tell of some great practices that folks are taking on for lent. I’ll list some of them in a later post.
But first: a confession. I frequently take on practices – prayer disciplines, books to read, etc – but I never fully follow through. I tend to start a few days after Ash Wednesday and then by mid-lent I’ve fallen behind or moved on completely.
Basically, by about the third week in lent my habitual habits have walked up to my shiny new practices and shown them how things are done around here.
So for those of you who are like me, I want to offer this plug for the old-school lenten practice of simply choosing something to give up for a time. This is the fast, and lent is a time for fasting. Sure, committing to a daily practice of centering prayer does, in some circles, have more cache than giving up diet coke. But if you drink a lot of diet coke, trust me, that’s pretty hard to do. Don’t shy away from a lenten fast because it feels too pedestrian or too much like something you did as a kid.
I know that I am more likely to stick with a fast than with a discipline, and sticking to it is a big part of the point. What happens when I add a practice but then fall off the wagon? I either feel bad about myself, or I decide not to hold myself accountable. Neither quite fits the bill.
If a new practice is the way to go for you, I commend you for that. Part of my gig, as a parish priest, is to help hold you accountable to that if you’ll let me. But don’t overlook the simple joys of simply giving something up for a time, and letting something new happen in the recovered space.