When we are engaged in our Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, meditation, etc. our lives seem to slow down and become simpler. Which makes me think of all those hundreds of self-help books telling us how to simplify our lives. A few lie gathering dust on my shelves. Maybe someone should write one and call it “Simplify your Life, Incorporating Lent in Your Daily Life.” I admit that down-sizing, simplification, and slowing down has a strong draw on me these days. It might be a sign of age or my recent health issues, but getting rid of the clutter in my life seems a worthy goal. When I start talking like this, Suzy will tell me, “ Stop it. You are acting like you are ready for a nursing home.” She has a point, she always does, but still the appeal is still there. Perhaps, partially because, if you allow it to happen it is very easy to become overwhelmed by accumulation of “stuff” and a constant barrage of “noise.”
So I contend that during Lent we have the excuse to slow down and engage in some “spring cleaning” of our lives. So how about that self –help book on Lent? Now, self-help books often contain lists – 10 ways to good health, 5 rules of a healthy diet, etc. So when I think of a self-help book, I think we are going to need a list. So there are a couple of lists of three that come to mind that might do.
The first list, I recently read, is concise and to the point — “true faith, a simple life, and a helping hand are the three things most prized in Heaven.” If it is good enough for Heaven it can’t be a bad Lenten goal and journey if we could pull it off. I also think of Grandmother Erwin’s words who engaged in a massive spring cleaning every year. She would say to her grandchildren that during good or bad times, “don’t eat until you are hungry, don’t sleep until you can’t stay awake, and don’t speak unless the truth opens your mouth.” Not bad advice, but doesn’t quite fit the Lenten Message
One last list I thought of to take with us down the road of Lent: “May the shadow of Christ fall on thee. May the garment of Christ cover thee. May the breath of Christ breathe in thee.” I am afraid it sounds too much like an Irish poem than a self-help list.
The truth is a self-help book on Lent needs to stay on the shelf gathering dust like my books on losing weight, getting exercise, and succeeding in business. Lent is about self-examination, conversations with God, and introspection. It is as individual as things get, and though a lot of people participate in journeys during Lent, each has a separate destination. The rewards are individually unique. The beauty is found in its simplicity.