Forward Today: Simply showing up for Lent

Dear friends in Christ: This week’s Forward Today is written by Margaret Ellsworth, who started working on the Forward Movement team in our marketing department in August 2021. From time to time, I hope Forward Today readers will enjoy a perspective from others on our team. – Scott Gunn

Today we are officially two weeks into Lent. And for those of us who are practicing a Lenten discipline this year–whether that’s giving something up or taking something on—we are coming face-to-face with how that practice is working in our lives so far.

Maybe you’re satisfied with how your practice is working—maybe you’re noticing how it’s leading you into self-examination and repentance. Or maybe it’s been a struggle.

Maybe you gave up chocolate for Lent and then remembered with chagrin that you’d already pre-ordered some delicious Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts next door. Maybe you picked a discipline last week and promptly forgot about it after the ashes were washed from your brow.  Maybe a Lenten practice feels like just one more thing to add to your plate, and after two years full of work and worry your plate’s just… full.

In a culture that tells us to optimize our lives for maximum productivity, it’s easy to see Lent through that lens. Easy to think our prayers and fasts are failures of will.

But what if our practices don’t have to be perfect? What if simply showing up could be enough?

In this season of my life I’m finding that a small and simple practice is more likely to be done consistently, and thus bear more fruit, than a thorny ambitious one. Take dishes, for example: the bane of my housekeeping life. When I set out to clean the whole house in a day, it stays messy. When I set out to wash one dish, more often than not I move on to empty the sink—and if that isn’t possible, at least I have a plate to eat off of for dinner.

So too with habits of prayer. I have tried for many past Lenten seasons to pray the Daily Office every day. Some hectic days I can’t find the full thirty minutes it would take to pray the whole service aloud. But I can try the small and simple version of that. Perhaps I’ll just pray the five-minute “Daily Devotions” service from the BCP instead. Or even just one psalm or canticle. Maybe just the Lord’s Prayer.

The Forward Day by Day app (available on iOS and Google Play) makes this easy. The readings and prayers are already there for me without any flipping through pages or looking things up. I can move from the long Morning Prayer service to a shorter prayer or devotional with just one tap. And for days when I can’t sit still, I pull up the Morning Prayer podcast (right there in the app as well) and let the prayers and readings wash over me as I get the dishes done.

So wherever you are with your discipline this week, I pray that God is meeting you there. I hope you show up with me this week, no matter how small or simple your practice may be—because after all, it is not our work but God’s that draws us into holy presence.

Margaret Ellsworth serves as Marketing Coordinator for Forward Movement. She holds an MA in worship and the arts from Claremont School of Theology. Margaret lives with her husband and two young children in Boise, Idaho.

More from our ministry:

Prayer practices in everyday life: Seek and You Will Find
Try a practice of simple Lenten joy: Play Lent Madness