So. We’re halfway through Lent.
For me, that means I’m supposed to be half way through some kind of Lenten practice. Traditionally this meant a fast of some sort. I’ve fasted from sugar (not all out, mind you, or my sweet teeth would have rotted away), I’ve fasted from technology (that one didn’t go very well), I’ve fasted from negative self talk, fasted from buying new outdoor gear, and fasted from complaining.
At some point I realized that instead of removing something in my life, maybe I should add something in. So I added in Bible time, or praying, or reading great spiritual books, or getting more exercise.
And yet, I just don’t know. Several weeks ago, when Lent actually started, I saw a Facebook post with a quote from a famous person about how Lenten practices have zero gain if they don’t benefit someone else. Of course I can’t find that quote now. Dangit.
BUT, it’s what I’ve been leaning toward for several years. If this faith that we have is world-changing, if the radical love that Jesus gave to all persons is actually for all and not just a privileged few, then wouldn’t Lent be all about benefiting others?
So, yeah, great, it’s a fantastic idea to have a Lenten practice that brings goodness to others! I mean, I can cut out sugar and fast from negative self talk anytime because hey, that’s about ME. Seriously, I can start and stop this on a whim.
And yes, I could also start and stop an others-benefitting spiritual practice anytime, too. But what about now? Midway through Lent? Can’t we just start next year?
What if we could reboot Lent and say, “Hey, so I might’ve missed the Lenten boat. So what? That Lent ship returns to the dock every single day through Sat., Apr 20. It sails every day! Let’s go check it out.”
If we want to benefit others, then why would we be bothered about starting a Lenten practice halfway through Lent? It’s okay. I certainly haven’t done well with sticking with anything this Lent, and I don’t want to feel crappy about that. So how about we abandon the crappy feels and instead just feel good about doing something positive instead.
If you’re game for this, here are a few suggestions:
- Buy no plastic (plastic is harming life everywhere)
- Send a message of kindness every day to someone who doesn’t usually hear from you (or to a business or non-profit or politician or person that you value)
- Donate every day to charities or churches doing good stuff
- Offer to do favors for others and actually do them
- Drive less; carpool, take public transit or use your own human power
- Give away a lot of stuff that you don’t need
- Volunteer for service projects
- Babysit for parents/guardians who trust you (please don’t endanger the kid’s life if this isn’t your jam)
- Highlight a social injustice every day on social media
- Highlight a goodness every day on social media
- Take edible treats to your neighbors (again, please don’t endanger your neighbor’s lives is this isn’t your jam)
- Write postcards to politicians asking them to work toward common good
- Stand on a corner and hold a sign that says something awesome and life-giving
- Address bullying
- Start a fundraiser for something important and work on it every day
- Use less water
- Buy local
There’s an infinite number of ways that we can benefit others.
If it’s the ONLY spiritual practice that we do, it’s still well worth it.
by Charis Weathers