Empowering Change in 40 Days: Why Lent brings authentic change.

For the first time in many years, I decided I would make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, pancake day. I’m well versed in the making of pancakes, I am Scottish after all, but I usually don’t have time on Shrove Tuesday itself. This year I thought I’d make a special effort. This new-found determination got me thinking about what these special days are actually all about. Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and then the 40 Days of Lent. People the world over know about it more or less, especially pancakes and giving up certain things over Lent. But I often feel that people see it as a terrible time of self-denial. Forcing yourself to refrain from that one thing you love so much that it almost becomes a bit of a joke. That’s not really the point of Lent. So I want to share with you 4 reasons that I believe can make Lent an empowering time of authentic change in your life. Turn it into a season that you look forward to. A time of renewal and growth.

What is Lent?

Lent is a period of 40 Days that leads up to Easter Sunday. Christians reflect on the life of Jesus leading up to his death. The 40 Days represent the 40 days he spent fasting and praying in the desert and where he was tempted by Satan. The word Lent derives from an old English word meaning ‘lengthen’. As we approach Spring and Summer, we get more hours of sunlight each day to enjoy.

Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are the two days at the beginning of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is the day of feasting where foods were used up before Lent. Pancakes came about as a convenient way to use up eggs and fats in a delicious sweet treat. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the ashes symbolising death and repentance. It is a holy day of prayer and fasting.

So why should I bother with Lent?

Why indeed? In an increasingly secular world, the significance and importance of Christian traditions like Lent may seem obsolete. However, I would argue to the contrary. In a world where morality becomes ever more indefinable, and where being selfless is going out of fashion, we need a moment of pause. A moment to rethink, recalibrate and realign our thinking, behaviours, and attitudes. Maybe we can use Lent as a time of empowering and authentic change in our lives. Moreover, it’s a time to test ourselves. To understand our limits, and discover our untapped potential.

Here are 4 reasons Lent can change your life…

1. Authentic Sacrifice

Since Lent is founded on the sacrifices of Jesus, both during his life and death and in the 40 days he spent fasting in the desert, it is a natural progression for us to practice sacrifice too. It’s a word with often negative connotations, meaning that we lose something.

Sacrifice: to give up something for something else considered more important.

Cambridge Dictionary

However, to authentically sacrifice something means that you have looked inwardly at your core values. That is to say, you have recognised that by sacrificing something of importance to you, you have questioned it and put something else above it. Sacrifice is a selfless and sometimes difficult practice. We don’t like giving things up. We want to have it all. But in the pursuit of our culture of self-determination, we lose sight of what is important. Do whatever makes you happy, they say. But at the expense of what, or whom?

Learning to authentically sacrifice what is unimportant or unnecessary in your life allows you to challenge your values. Furthermore, it fosters a habit of self-reflection that can be continued past the 40 Days of Lent and keeps you fresh and impactful throughout the year bringing about the empowering change you seek.

Read my blog on Self-Reflection here for more insight.

Empowered through sacrifice

So don’t see your sacrifice of something you adore, like chocolate for example, as the martyrdom that you expect it to be. Take the opportunity to embrace the authentic and empowering change in your life that sacrifice can bring and focus instead on the positives. Improved health, skin, diet; realising that you are not as addicted as you thought and you can function perfectly well apart from it. Realigning your attitude towards it as a treat, not a daily requirement. Replacing it with something far more beneficial both as an aid to distraction and as a way of self-improvement. If we choose to focus on the difficulty, we will never see the opportunity.

chocolate. chocolate cravings.
Image by Alexander Stein from Pixabay

2. An empowering time of renewal

Lent is a time of renewal. It’s a bit like New Year when we make resolutions to be better at something specific. Lent takes it further by focusing on the idea of penitence. The recognition of things that have gone wrong in our lives and our commitment to overcome them. If we are to be empowered during the period of Lent, this is an important task. It could be a relationship that has soured, a behaviour that is destructive, a lack of action in a situation. There are many things that may need our repentance and action to renew. It’s how we become better versions of ourselves. How we forge deeper more meaningful relationships. It’s also how we strive to avoid repeating destructive practices.

Take this Lenten fasting time to ponder your life, challenge yourself, and bring about empowering change by the renewal of the damaged areas in your life. Making an authentic change in your life begins with difficult truths and facing the realities before you. But it must be followed by action. So don’t put it off!

3. Un-Tapped potential

I guess this is something I really struggle with myself. I’m not really a ‘get up and go’ kinda gal and often am slowed into inaction by overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. That feeling that something is too big, too unknown and you just don’t feel prepared to cope. Challenging these feelings really comes down to mindset and self-discipline. When we begin to change our mindset, when we say to ourselves why not instead of, I’m not so sure, we can begin to realise within ourselves a potential we didn’t know we had. Start at the beginning by overcoming the illusions we have about our willpower. Empowering change comes through breaking the barriers we build up ourselves in our minds.

Say you really struggle to get motivated to exercise because you just feel that you’ve never succeeded before, that all your previous attempts have shown little results. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start and so you never have. This kind of situation is not down to whether you can lift a weight or not. Anyone can lift a weight. It’s down to your mindset and whether you are really ready to commit and stay the course for the long haul. No-one gets anywhere worthwhile quickly. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth committing to and that requires a change in attitude. So, begin small. Take the first step and recognise your efforts. Then take another, and another. Gradually you’ll begin to see change and that you can keep going each day, one step at a time. Authentic change takes time and patience. But it also takes strength of mind and character.

exercise. lifting weights. healthy eating.
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Lent is a journey of self-discipline

It requires us to really focus on what we are aiming to achieve. Whether that be giving up something we love, something we value too much at the expense of other more important things, or whether we are trying to take up something that will make us better individuals. Lent is a time when we can discover the untapped potential within us all, if only we would be ready to focus, change our mindset and go for it. If we can achieve it over 40 days, who says we can’t maintain it over 365?

4. A discerning eye

Have you ever been told you have a discerning eye? Maybe you’re good at spotting a bargain. Or maybe you are good at telling if a restaurant really is as good as they say it is. Whatever it may be, you are able to show good judgment in particular situations based on your observations.

Today we are surrounded by temptation. The word temptation itself may seem out of fashion or even meaningless in todays secular society, but whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, doesn’t mean we aren’t affected by it. Often, we think of really big things that people do wrong when we think of temptation, and it’s true, people do make really huge mistakes when they act upon their temptation.

But it can be little things too. If we know that Lent is about self-discipline, sacrifice, and renewal, then we need to go in with the expectation that we will be tempted too. Our natures will revolt, and we’ll want to sneak that pastry, or not get up to go for that walk. We’ll put off renewing that relationship and lapse in our efforts. Temptation is taking the easy way, it’s convincing yourself that it’s only a little thing, that you’re entitled.

Don’t be fooled
But don’t be dismayed either

No-one is perfect. But we must learn to be discerning by making better choices. Often, we know which the right thing is to do, we just manage to convince ourselves otherwise or turn a blind eye. I’ll begin again tomorrow, goes the old saying. How many of those do we have? Forgive yourself your slip-ups, but make sure you are on the lookout for those sneaky things that are going to trip you up and knock you off your path. Being tempted is natural, expected even. But we must learn to be strong of will and turn our discerning eye onto better and more rewarding things. That empowering change requires your discernment to be successful!

Stay the path!

Be inspired! Start now!

The number 40 is a rather significant one and is often represented by many periods of testing and trial. It is revered by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and scientists for its significance. There is a group of theologians who believe that the number 40 represents ‘change’ and is a time of preparing a person to make fundamental change. Whatever significance we attribute to the number, 40 days had proven itself to be a perfect time for effecting change.

change. empowered to change. signs of change.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There’s a biblical verse that goes like this:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what us the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12: 2 ESV

Whether or not you believe in God is your choice and not my point here. What I want you to remember is that we are responsible for our own minds, actions, and attitudes. The world will force its ways upon you if you’re not careful. If we don’t learn to discern for ourselves what is right and good and true, if we don’t learn to be self-disciplined and sacrificial in our lives, we become like sheep. Don’t diminish your potential by taking the easy road and following the crowd. Better yourself, be your best you, and use these 40 Days of Lent, whether you believe in God or not, to renew your strength, your belief, and discover your possibilities of empowering and authentic change in your life.

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If you would like help in making any of these changes in your life then we would be delighted to speak with you. Visit our website for more information on Mind, Body, and Soul.

Please comment below on your experiences during Lent or any period of empowering and authentic change and renewal you have gone through in your life. How did you cope? Did you maintain the changes you sought? We’d love to hear from you!

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