“Lent begins in the wilderness. . . . Even against our better judgment, we must begin these forty days by going alone to a wild place — in ourselves or in our lives. If we are fiercely honest with ourselves as we begin a Lenten journey toward greater openness, we must start by seeing things we would rather not see.” —Sarah Parsons
Each day during Lent, spend time in quiet solitude. If you don’t already have a regular prayer time, begin with ten to fifteen minutes a day. When you sit in your chosen solitary place, distractions will likely bombard you. This is normal.
Breathe deeply and relax. Identify the thoughts that enter your consciousness. Especially notice your fears and worries or anything that feels overwhelming or chaotic; these are the denizens of your own hallowed wilderness. You may experience a feeling of being overworked, of having no time for rest. You may become aware of anxiety about relationships, a feeling that your interactions with others are somehow out of balance. You may feel an emptiness, a sense that you want to do something. An element of wilderness exists in all these situations; these are the parts of ourselves we tend to fight against. These are also the parts of ourselves that we will begin to befriend, settling them down and clearing more internal space.
Note a few places where you feel out of control, overwhelmed, or blocked and list them in a journal that only you will see. In this way, you map your own inner wilderness, and you can later decide how to focus your Lenten work.
Choosing a Practice
The map of the wilderness you created can guide your choice of a Lenten discipline. If you sat in silent meditation, you know the parts of your self and life that feel chaotic, like wild beasts. Consider a practice that addresses some element of the wilderness.
Rather than choosing to eradicate the obstacle of the chaos that you address, imagine a practice that simply invites God into the area to heal and transform it. If I realize in my wilderness meditations that I worry excessively, my Lenten practice would not be to stop worrying immediately. Instead it might be to pray whenever I find myself worrying. No practice is too small; a practice as small as saying a one-sentence prayer once a day can hold great meaning and value.
Suggested Lenten Practices
1. Daily prayer/meditation time. Start with just a few minutes each day.
2. Media fast. Abstain from watching TV, listening to music, reading, participating in social media.
3. Meditative walks. Daily, mindful walks.
4. Art. Daily creative activity.
5. Journaling. A daily practice of writing.
6. Community activities. Attending church or other community functions.
7. Service. Encountering Christ in those whom you serve.
Adapted from A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent by Sarah Parsons. Copyright © 2005 by the author. Used with permission of Upper Room Books.
Pastor Harold Stinson was given The Upper Room as a child by his mother. He is now 71 years old and still reads the devotional guide every day but now in large print. He also hosts a daily prayer call and uses the scripture from the meditation as the basis for that call.