lessons from lent
For the first time in my life, I observed Lent. Granted, I was about three days late in doing so, but regardless, I spent forty days until Easter fasting and praying.
Now...I’m the kind of person who never really considered all the facets of spiritual growth until they’d been saved for over a decade. When I was about twelve-ish (I honestly don’t know how old I was), I finally began consistently reading my Bible every night. And it wasn’t until the last three years that I began consistently praying every day.
And I fasted for the very first time back in January of this year. Strangely...it was good. It was refreshing. It was beneficial. (And one day I will write about the benefits of fasting, but today is not the day.) So when Lent rolled around, I decided I would do something that, to me, seemed wild and crazy.
Get up early in the morning to read my Bible, pray, and journal my thoughts and prayers.
Y’all. My sleep schedule is nonexistent. Somewhere between the dratted time change and me loving my sleep too much (and forcing myself to sleep late when my dad was working a later shift and needed a few extra hours of sleep in the mornings), I stopped getting out of bed at 5am like I did as a kid. And the very moment I finally stumbled out of my room, I was bombarded by 300,000 things to do. I’ve never been able to journal consistently, on top of everything else, and I already read my Bible at night, so surely that was enough.
So you see, I was in dire need of spiritual intervention. Instead of getting up at 8am and immediately turning on my phone to check my messages (and later getting stressed out because I slept half the day away), I started getting out of bed (usually) as soon as I woke up and reading a couple chapters. I actually put together a Bible study schedule that had me reading all four Gospels, a couple chapters of Acts, and the book of Romans in forty days—which was so fun to create, so now I’m into writing Bible studies (don’t mind me).
Basically, I decided to fast from sleeping late and being on my phone (at least first thing in the morning), and focused on quiet time with God. Which I never get except for when I read my Bible at night, when it’s late and I’m tired and my mind is falling asleep and I can’t keep my eyes open.
You see the predicament.
Now, enough backstory. I want to share with you what I learned during my forty days of quiet time! So, without further ado, I present to you...lessons from Lent…
quiet time is important
This is the obvious one, and most people have probably figured this out by now. I’ve always known this, but never put it into practice until this past month.
Quiet time is so important because it’s just that: a time set aside specifically for communion with God, worship of Him, and studying His Word. When you can recognize the need for quiet in your spiritual life—quiet from the stress and anxiety, the doubts and disbelief, the temptations and interruptions—you’ll be able to truly spend time with God, focus on Him, serve Him, study Him, and grow close to Him.
The trick is not to try and cram two extra minutes during your lunch break or right before bed. Nope. Inconvenience yourself. Pick the worst time, the time you’d never wanna reserve for anything, and dedicate it to God. Carve out twenty minutes, forty-five minutes, an hour of time for absolutely nothing else but Him. (You don’t have to use up all that time; just make sure you have some extra time in case you find you don’t want it to end. 😉)
routine is good, but not perfect
Y’all, habits are great. Habits are necessary to our lives and enhance our ability to commit and handle responsibility. Keeping a routine and making a habit out of something is good…
But it’s not perfect.
When you start hinging everything on your routine, you’ll become stressed when life gets in the way. Bored by the monotony. Unaffected by the habit you made.
So if you, like me, have a hard time keeping up with routines and creating new habits—don’t worry! Please don’t let that stop you from trying something new, something that will make a difference in your life! If you can start a routine, that’s amazing, because it is good—but if you can’t, that’s okay too, because neither is perfect.
But God is. So when you surrender your time and energy, however little it may be to Him, He will make something perfect out of it.
God redeems our time
Speaking of little time...on my first day, I got up late and rushed into the laundry room, plopped down on the floor, and did my best to do what I’d committed to doing. People kept coming in and out, and I had chores waiting on me, so I only had a few measly minutes…
And God used them.
He spoke to me through His Word and taught me things through the scriptures I read. I sat there, thrumming with anxiety and uncertain if this would work, if I’d even have any thoughts to write down...and there went God, pouring His Spirit out on me and speaking to me as I read.
Even when you only have a few measly minutes or measly anything else, God wants it. He will use it. Broken dreams, boring days, pain—doesn’t matter. Give it to Him, and watch Him restore and redeem it, creating beauty from the ashes.
God’s Word is truly alive
I’ve read through the Bible before. I’ve read the Gospels tons of times and heard all the stories my entire life. And with that in mind, it’s far too easy to think, “Welp, nothing new to see here. Moving on.”
But God proved over and over again in the last forty days that His Word is a l i v e. No matter how many times you read one passage or one book or one story, there’s still wisdom and knowledge to be imparted, mysteries to be revealed, peace and hope to be bestowed. There’s still—and always will be—more to learn and discover. More ways to apply the scripture to your life. More things to pray about and thank God for.
So don’t ever be turned off to a “boring” or “overrated” part of the Bible. Read it. Read it again and again and again, and if you don’t get something new out of it every single time, I’ll eat my hat. (Just an expression. I actually don’t have any hats to eat...)
when you listen, He speaks
I prayed almost every morning that God would speak to me what He wanted to say and reveal to me what He wanted me to know. And the crazy thing is, even through my doubt, even though (like I mentioned above) I was re-reading chapters I’d read/heard hundreds of times, God did speak. Several times I’d run out of space in my journal (because I set up a page per day for journaling) for my thoughts and prayers because of all that I was learning.
The point? When we listen, when we quiet our mind and let God speak over all the other noise, He will. He does. In fact, He always is, and once we focus on Him instead of everything else, we’ll hear Him.
Suffice to say, my forty days of quiet time and fasting (ish) were amazing. Definitely beyond all I’d expected. Not only did I learn all these things (or have them affirmed if I had already learned them), I re-trained myself to get up early, which gave me time for my reading and to take care of kitchen clean-up, lunch prep, and even some writing instead of feeling rushed and overwhelmed once I woke up.
God didn’t institute the practice of fasting for us to feel like pious, perfect Christians (like the Pharisees did) or to make us suffer under strict guidelines. Rather, He gave it to us as a tool for strengthening, growing closer to Him, and pruning and purifying our hearts and minds. If you don’t fast in some form or fashion, or if you don’t have time with God (either at a certain time and all throughout the day), I urge you to consider doing so! Find a time that’s quiet and peaceful for you to read the Word, pray, journal, worship, and just be with God. Take a break (whether forty days or two) to abstain from something or switch up your routine or simply add more time with God to your day.
And if you don’t find yourself learning and growing and being formed...I’ll eat my nonexistent hat.
I love you all and pray God would do amazing works in your lives!