“You are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17) These words are said every Ash Wednesday, yet they held particular significance to me this year. Three weeks ago, I held the small heavy box that contained my father’s ashes in my hands, the same hands that had held his only days before. Life can end quicker than we are prepared for it. That is why the season of Lent is so important. It reminds us that we do not belong to this world. Lent is a time to re-connect with God and make Him our priority. Martin Luther said, “Repentence, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, to resume and practice what had earlier been begun but abandoned.” (Large Catechism) In Baptism, we are joined with Christ, but in our human shortcomings we sin and turn away from that connection. Lent is a time to repent, to turn back to God and reconnect with our Creator.
People often give up something for Lent in an attempt to find that connection again, but the goal is not about giving something up, but of drawing closer to God. If giving something up will help achieve that goal, then it is a worthy endeavor, but if all we think about is what we are giving up – like candy – then the process itself leads us further away rather than towards our Creator. Prayer and meditation lead us closer to God than anything else. Prayer is communicating with God. How often do we turn to prayer as a last resort rather than a first response? There have been times that I have been guilty of this as well, turning to worry instead. Prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. It is not a passive act. Prayer is a focused act of faith that always brings results. We may not get the results we want, but we always get what God feels we need. God always listens and always answers us; sometimes we have to be still and listen for the still small voice.
This Lent, rather than give something up, or add yet one more activity to our already full plates, I suggest to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and see what happens. I guarantee we’ll feel lighter, peaceful, filled with joy, and closer to God than ever before. Talk to God throughout the day; keep Him as the focus of your life. You’ll be giving up all those worries and concerns that keep you apart and making a space for Grace!