It is the first Sunday of Lent, and I'm still trying to decide on my Lenten habits and practices. I got the easy part figured out quickly (giving up French fries), but since that was a pretty pitiful sacrifice, I knew I wanted to do more. Sure, I could give up Starbucks and make myself and everyone around me totally miserable, and while that would prove a point, it doesn't really draw me any closer to God, unless you count daily conversations with Him asking what on earth I was thinking.
Something I learned late in life - after joining my parish church, in fact - is the idea that Lent isn't just about giving things up, but also about adding new habits designed to accomplish the same thing - a closer walk with God. What I do for Lent shouldn't be an idle sacrifice, but something that improves my personal relationship with God.
The problem is, coming up with fledgling habits instead of simple sacrifices is been more challenging, which is how I got to the first Sunday in Lent with only semi-solid plans - and not for the first year, I might add. And when my daughter and I were discussing our Lenten plans last night, and I realized how measly my offering of French fries was, I decided it was time to stop procrastinating.
Earlier this week, I had already decided to incorporate more scriptural readings into my day. My plan was simple. My daily devotional has a snippet of scripture before the devotion for the day, so in the evening, I'd read the chapter from which the snippet was drawn, adding context to it. Great plan....which I had yet to implement. Tempting though it was to chastise myself, then give up the plan because I hadn't started it on Ash Wednesday, I went another way. I decided that what was important wasn't when I read the passage, but that I read it.
So, I adjusted my goal. Throughout Lent, I will catch up on these readings, ideally getting through all of them in the week they first appear in my devotional. But, if I don't get them done then, the answer isn't to throw up my hands and walk away - it's to read them when I can, with the goal of developing the habit of opening not just the devotional, but the book that inspired it in the first place.
Disciplined? Maybe not. But, soon after Easter, when I inevitably succumb to the allure of French fries, relegating my Lenten abstinence to a mere memory, I also stand a very good chance of returning to spiritual food that is much more lasting because I gave myself the flexibility to approach my readings in a way that weaves them into my daily life.
Which can use all the healthy habits it can get.