Preparing for Lent

Just a few days to go till Lent begins. And, even though this year Ash Wednesday is later than usual - which should have meant plenty of time to prepare - we've discussed what we'll be doing as a community, and all sorts of suggested resources, reflections and suchlike have been filling my inbox and feeds, I know I'm not the only one who still feels as though the season has sneaked up on me and taken me by surprise!

Although that's not completely true, as in a way I managed to anticipate Lent about a month ago. Sitting on a train, scrolling through social media, I had come across a suggestion to spend the forty days de-cluttering, by putting one possession per day in a bag, and taking it to a charity shop. Hmmm... I thought, this sounded like an excellent idea, I definitely have things with which I could fill a few bags. Mentally, I appraised the contents of my wardrobe, alighting on some rarely-worn clothes and a superfluous shoulder bag. My mind's eye moved on to my shelves, and identified a few more items... and as I totted this little haul up, I realised with satisfaction that the first week of Lent was already taken care of!

... Until it eventually dawned on me that if I could identify superfluous possessions now, maybe now - not a month later - was the best time to take them to a charity shop! Which is what I did, whilst also reflecting, ruefully, on how easy it is to defer making a change, doing something extra, or giving something up. Yes, Lent does provide a special impetus and motivation, but in the weeks before it begins, how often do I wallow in something, or put off making a much-needed change or a strong effort, because this is what I will do for Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and not a day before? Not for the first time, I imagine God chuckling fondly at all this - and at me.

And yet for all that, there is a specialness to Lent, which makes it, if not easier, then certainly more possible to focus, to become freer for God, and to clear a space for him, amid all the clutter and superfluous stuff with which I can easily fill my life. Somehow, it's more possible, because Lent helps me to keep more in mind and heart the One I crave, deep down, far more than chocolate, or a particular jumper. My preparations may have been haphazard, but I think I'm now ready for Lent. And so I wait, good book and carrier bags at the ready, aware that these next couple of days will fly by...