Lent, which begins on 6th March with Ash Wednesday this year, comes after quite a long winter. There have been plenty of dull grey days and this lack of sunshine can be taxing on our spiritual and psychological health, and we may not feel motivated to enter this Holy season. But Lent can be forty days of opportunity for growth and renewal, a time to focus on God.
Winter can often seem disheartening, so that I often pray for an early spring to enjoy one of my favourite late spring flowers, tulips, before Lent begins. It was a family tradition during Lent to practice a “tulip fast” and not display fresh flowers in the house to contrast with the Easter season when we would have a fresh bunch in the living room. When I get to enjoy early blooming tulips before I begin Lent, I feel that summer and a lightness of heart is right around the corner. Even when the winter lasts a little longer or Lent arrives earlier in the year and I don’t get to enjoy the early blooms, I can still feel the winter begin to recede because the “tulip fast” reminds me of what is important in my life. The tulips are beautiful and missed during Lent, and that absence reminds me to appreciate the presence of God’s love, which isn’t affected by the coming and going of the seasons. I am reminded to use Lent as an opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.
Our relationship with God affects every other relationship in our lives. How we treat others can demonstrate our level of focus on, and love for, God. Our relationships with others can give us an understanding of God’s love that we might not experience otherwise.
For some, the Lenten season can become filled with overly scrupulous goals. We don’t need to change everything about our relationship with God in forty days! Focusing on prayer and fasting to such an extent that you forget the purpose of the act can become a roadblock to your spiritual goals.
Finding a balanced way of strengthening your relationship with God is important.
What one prayer would you like to add, renew, or deepen this Lent? What one fasting practice would you like to engage in for the forty days of Lent? What practice of reading the Bible would you like to renew or engage in? Your relationship with God can deepen greatly with a stronger spiritual focus on one change, rather than several changes which contain no spiritual depth.
Lent is a time to work on personal spiritual growth, but it is also a time to ensure that your spiritual growth is bearing fruit. Some people fall into the trap of thinking, “I don’t need to get involved because someone else will do it,” but this kind of thinking takes away our opportunity to grow in relationships with others. Love and charity stabilise our relationship with God and manifest God’s love on earth in ways that bring the hope of Christ to the hopeless. What one way can you reach out to others this Lent? Even the simplest acts of love and charity will strengthen our worldly and heavenly relationships and reflect Christ’s love.
The more deeply you can live your Lenten commitments, the more quickly your winter doldrums will lift to expose a renewal and strengthening of spirit, love, and relationships. With a focus on a deepened relationship with God and a deepened relationship with others, the Easter season ushers in our hearts a beauty that is reflected in the spring around us.
Every year at the end of Lent, I go on a quest for the last tulips of the season. The arrival of these beautiful flowers reminds me that what is truly beautiful is the God who provided them.
Whatever you choose to do this Lent to strengthen your relationship with God, I hope, and pray, that you find it fortifying and renewing.
With every blessing