On Ritual, Routine, and Lent

I don’t think of Lent as a time to form habits. I think of it as a time to give up. But embracing something new always has in it surrender. And surrender always has offers something new.

So what if I approached Lent as a time of testing. Not being tested as much as testing new routines. If I give up 10 minutes of web-browsing every morning and spend that 10 minutes talking with God. That’s a form of fasting. After 40 days, I can find out whether I needed that ten minutes as much as I thought. But before we get far into Lent, before we look too deeply at those habits, let’s talk about routines and rituals.

For me, a routine is a set of thoughts and behaviors performed consistently. Repeated actions, routines, shape us and can then remind us of the context. It can be a bad thing, like flashbacks, or it can be a very helpful thing, being reminded of commitments.

It’s easy to turn a routine, a way of living, into a ritual. We perform a ritual, hoping it has some value in itself. It’s a kind of magic. We wear our lucky underwear. We show up to church every week.

When we look at the Old Testament, we see God, through his prophets, pointing out how actions of sacrifice, fasting, and Sabbath had become rituals to placate God, performed without thinking. Bodies did the sacrifice, minds and hearts were somewhere else. But just because we ritualize behavior doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look at routine.

Think of it this way: a ritual is something we do hoping to influence God. A routine is something we do to work on us. A routine like daily prayer or weekly Sabbath or a season of fasting can bring our minds back to the story of God’s work.

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This is from the second chapter of  “33 things to give up for Lent”. It’s my next ebook. Subscribe to be notified when it’s released.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.