Lent begins next Wednesday, and once again, despite not being Christian either by upbringing or conviction, I feel a pull to do something spiritually significant during these seven weeks. It’s important to me that it be challenging, and not primarily for my own health or well-being, but something that helps me to serve others or elevate my purpose in some way. Some practices do double duty, of course. For example, I read this morning about how some people pledge to drink only water, which is healthful for the practitioner and also has an outward focus, because they take the money they usually spend on a daily coffee or whatever drinks they prefer and give it to charity.

That one wouldn’t be enough of a stretch for me, since I mostly drink water anyway. I also already give to charity on a budget I set annually, so shifting some of it to Lent would just be taking it from the rest of the year. I think I will return to a practice I began last month and did for a couple of weeks, but want to do with more discipline: the 40 Bags in 40 Days De-Cluttering Challenge. There is a purely self-care aspect of that: I’m stressed out by the amount of stuff I have, especially papers and e-mails, and I will feel better to lose 40 “bags.” However, it’s deeper than that.

Hoarding living room

(Not actually Amy’s living room.) Credit: Shadwwulf at en.wikipedia; used by Creative Commons license.

Clearing out space and organizing information makes it vastly easier for me to serve my congregation and care for my family. Looking for items that are submerged in the piles wastes time that I would rather devote to them, and to my spiritual practices. I want my church office to be a space that’s harmonious and welcoming to the people I meet there. I’d like our home office to have space for a desk for our daughter, so all three of us can work and create there–that will mean getting rid of a file cabinet’s worth of papers. I have clothes I never wear that I will be happy to take to a community thrift store for people who will benefit from them. And someone who may help me with this job is a young woman who’s struggling with addiction and looking for a useful way to spend a few hours a day, so working side by side with her will be a service to her as well as a way to keep myself on task. And when my space is tidy and well-ordered, I feel a burst of energy that I can put toward any number of more important goals.

What other spiritual aspects this practice may prove to have, I’ll know by Easter.

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