Are you one in five?
Cast your mind back a month or so and remember what you did for New Year. Did you see it in with friends, go out and watch a firework display, or just get an early night? Maybe you made a New Year Resolution. Congratulations if you’re sticking to it, but if you’ve now given up on it, you’re in very good company. Around one in five people in the UK who make New Year Resolutions, have abandoned them by the beginning of February. Maybe we should we should just leave resolutions to the UN.
Lent - a chance to re-visit your resolutions
If you have abandoned your resolution, or wish you had made on after all, here’s some good news. It seems that more people manage to make positive lifestyle changes in Lent than at New Year. There are some very good reasons for this. Have a think about these.
Lent is part of your life rhythm for the year
I was having a recent conversation with a couple of colleagues in the coaching profession where we got onto the subject of “life rhythms.” Too many people we know overwork to the point of over-tiredness and use holidays more as an escape from the pressure of work, than to use them to revitalise themselves and rediscover the joy of life. I was telling my friends how the church calendar naturally builds in a healthy life rhythm, with its holiday celebrations, times for reflection, and times to re-set priorities that are otherwise driven by what we consume and what we give ourselves to. That built-in rhythm includes the long fast of Lent and the less demanding fast of Advent. We can develop life rhythms of our own, elicit the help of coaches to design them, or just join a church that follows a liturgical calendar or which has a conscious rhythm of rest and work. Whereas a New Year Resolution can have discordant effect on our lives - a sudden interruption to a season of celebration - Lent has a natural place in our annual cycle of life.
Making a lifestyle choice for Lent is also helped if you are part of a community where a lot of other people are also doing the same. At the heart of this is both a physical community and a set of common values. If you make a lifestyle choice based on your values - your deepest guiding principles - you are far more likely to stick to it. And by doing this as part of a community you have the knowledge that your individual decision is contributing to a wider commitment, and wider expression of those values.
A powerful role model
When we get back to the very heart of Lent we find ourselves face to face with Jesus. The 40 days of Lent remind us of the 40 days in which Jesus fasted in a desert after his baptism. If you don’t normally go to a church, and decide to visit one over Lent, you could do worse than to ask what the people in the congregation find significant about what Jesus did during his fast, and how that inspires and motivates them today. For many, it’s a reminder that following the life of a Christian isn’t an easy ride, but one that throws up many challenges. At the start of his ministry Jesus made a statement - that he would follow his destiny, and follow the will of God his heavenly father, whatever the cost. Lent is one of those times where Christians nail their colours to the mast and identify with believers across the worldwide family of Christian churches and traditions, declaring that we are up for the cost, as well as experiencing the benefits, of following Jesus.
What’s the value of Lent if you don’t normally go to church?
The idea of having a healthy rhythm to life is one anyone can embrace. As Christians we would say that God has built that need into all of us, so anyone who responds to it will enjoy its benefits. But if you wouldn’t see yourself as a person of faith, yet as someone who gives something up for Lent, why not go a little deeper this year? What are the core values that motivate you, and how are you expressing these during the run up to Easter? Perhaps this is a good moment to review your values and how true you are being to them. This doesn’t need to be an uncomfortable exercise in deep personal reflection, just a natural and healthy moment to take stock and re-focus. If you visit a church you will find plenty of people doing just that already.
Make more of Lent
So this year, why not “make more of Lent.” Make it even more than a healthy exercise in giving something up, and use it to revisit your values, rediscover the rich Christian heritage behind the season, and make space to see what new opportunities you are being drawn to.
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