3 Ways Into a Holy Lent

by Matthew Kozlowski, alumnus

Most Christian holidays have joyful greetings: Merry Christmas! Happy Easter! But as for Lent…not so much. I’ve never had someone wish me a “Happy Lent”. This 40-day season before Easter is unique. Yes there is joy, but the deep meaning of Lent is found in prayer, self-reflection, and growing closer to Jesus.

Ok, so Lent might not be the most fun season of the Christian year. But think of it this way: Lent is like the camp worship song “Days of Elijah”— it’s coming whether or not you’re ready.

How might you live into a holy Lent this year? Here are three suggestions:

1. Take an Inventory
As a Brookwoods counselor, I remember the last days of camp when we cleaned and put everything away. All supplies had to be counted, whether they were sailboats or Nerf balls. What was missing? What was in good condition?

In Lent, we do the same thing, but with our spiritual lives. We take inventory, asking: What’s bringing me closer to God? What’s drawing me away? What don’t I need anymore? What’s broken? What’s working well? This process may sting a bit, but it can also feel really good—especially, if we ask God for the grace to be honest and the strength to make changes.

2. Consider Others First

The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, fasting, praying, and resisting the devil. Notice how Satan tempted Jesus to do miracles that were self-centered tricks: feed yourself by turning stones into bread…jump from a height and be caught by angels. Jesus refused. He knew that his power was mainly for the sake of others. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV).

In Lent, we follow Christ’s example by considering others before ourselves. Be generous, not just with money, but with time and intention. Write a card, send an uplifting text, or take an extra minute to call. A friend of mine once said that Brookwoods was the first place he knew where people asked, “How are you?” and really meant it. That’s the kind of spiritual generosity we can practice in Lent.

3. Give Something Up, for the Right Reasons

It may be old-fashioned, but I still give something up for Lent. Some people give up chocolate, or Facebook, or the snooze button. This is good. But it’s important to ask: what’s the point? If the goal is self-improvement, I think we miss the mark. Lent should not be a 40-day diet or self-help program.

Instead, Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus Christ, full stop. Giving something up helps us focus on Jesus, and lean on Him. Think of it this way, when you remove something from your life, how will you fill that empty space? A wise minister told me that when he fasts, he prays for the Holy Spirit to fill him. The Spirit always shows up—you can count on it. Just like “Days of Elijah” showing up at the end of camp worship—you count on it.

The Rev. Matthew Kozlowski is an associate priest at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, MD. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Danielle, and two daughters. “Koz” was a counselor at Brookwoods and Moose River between 2002-2005, where he taught sailing and wrote mildly amusing skits for the Staff Special. matthew.koz@gmail.com