Living Columns & Blogs

Consider clearing out what’s holding you back during Lent

Christians are now in the midst of the Lenten season, the 40 days preceding Easter. Traditionally, this time each year is dedicated to introspection, looking inward to see where one might be in their relationship with God. It is also a time of preparation for that glorious surprise of Easter, when Jesus who died on that awful cross of Friday is now alive again, resurrected for all of humankind, with the promise of life eternal for all who believe in Christ.

Many Christians do some kind of a fast during these days. Sometimes it is a fast from things of the flesh, such as giving up eating meat either for the whole season or on a specific day of each week. For some, it is giving up something else that we enjoy, such as sweets or chocolate, alcohol or some other discipline. It serves as a reminder to us that God is calling up to look inward and take a spiritual journey that draws into a closer relationship with God, as Jesus wandered in the wilderness, relying on God’s providence, before he began his active ministry in the world. These Lenten disciplines, however we choose to observe them for ourselves, give us the opportunity to get closer to God. They also prepare ourselves for where God is calling us next in our ministries as God’s people, alive and active in our world in this day.

To be honest, I’m not very disciplined when it comes to maintaining a particular spiritual practice, but this year seems different to me. I realized that I have too much “stuff” and it gets in the way of living life in a fuller relationship with God, because too much stuff clutters up my mind and spirit.

As I thought about it, I realized that no one else in my family really wants my stuff either, but my things may be useful to others if I give them away, recycle them or find a place that will do that for me. There are many such places in our community, such as Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul’s, Scraps and Skeins, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Centre Peace and Interfaith Mission. So, for my Lenten journey this year, I have resolved to spend some time each day cleaning out one little corner of my stuff. By Easter, I should have made a significant dent in decreasing its space in my household and in my life. Part of what I’m realizing is that a lot of stuff is keeping me locked into a past and things that will not be a part of my life again. It’s time for me to repent, that is, turn around and look in another direction. When I keep looking backward, the stuff accumulates and impedes my ability to move forward to the next part of my journey of faith.

I believe we are on a path through our life with God, and that God is always calling us to new life and new directions. So, as I traverse this Lenten season, I’m trying to rid myself of some of the stuff, the stumbling blocks that might prevent me from seeing where Jesus is leading me. Parts of my past life may be finished, but I also know that there are always new surprises ahead, if I’m open and ready to see them. My faith journey has been a wondrous and fulfilling one this far, and I pray that I am open to the next phase of it with God.

May this season of Lent find you in a place of renewal and openness to what may be in store for you. Sometimes in order to see ahead, we need to turn around and look in a different direction. Sometimes we need to rid our lives of those things that keep us from being able to do that, so that the joy of Easter can surprise us yet again. No matter who we are, or where we are on life’s journey, God is always welcoming us to new life and love, if we are ready to go there.

The Rev. Ann Graves recently retired as a bridge interim pastor at Faith United Church of Christ in State College. She can be contacted at