It is time to decide what to do for Lent. 40 days leading up to Easter in which to better myself spiritually. At least that’s my aim. I used to give up biscuits and beat myself up if I found myself in a situation where to not take a proffered biscuit would offend someone. It happened more often than I expected, when I was doing home visits. I would meet nervous mothers who were grappling with the fact that their child needed to see a psychologist. They could seem quite traumatised, which wasn’t the idea at all. Eating their bourbons or rich tea seemed to signify that I was, at least, human. Maybe God was trying to teach me something?
Giving up chocolate didn’t work either – I thought about it all the time, becoming obsessed with a previously hardly experienced yearning for chocolate deliciousness! Praying and meditation were important ingredients of whatever I did but I became certain that God wanted more action as well. So I followed Tearfund’s (or was it WaterAid’s?) 40-day drive to save water and live in an ecologically sound way. But apart from being a slightly better steward of God’s world, I don’t think it impacted on me spiritually and the second time around was no longer a discipline.Somehow, three years ago, I stumbled upon 40 Acts. This scheme is run by Stewardship – a Christian charity set up to help us to give generously. Every day through Lent they suggest three generous acts to choose from, which reach out to others – sometimes a simple gift, or a smile, or speaking to someone who doesn’t usually get full attention. The writing tasks can be fun and there is plenty of room for creativity – whether it is making, baking, decorating or helping someone with a fiendish task. I love this practical outworking of spreading God’s love. I have found it makes me more aware of others’ needs, not just during the 40 days, but throughout my life. It also forces me out of my comfort zone; for example, through talking to a stranger who looks lonely or helping with a particularly nasty menial task. Then there’s baking cakes - not quite my best skill!
And somehow, time appears to stretch. If you are thinking ‘I’d never have time’, then try it! OK, sometimes I needed to catch-up if I had missed a day, but when I thought back, there was time – but I had used it for something far less important. On the 40 Acts website (www.40acts.org.uk) there is a brilliant video of someone catching up 21 days in 24 hours. Quite an achievement, but I think I’ll aim for one a day.Now I’m writing about it, I am remembering what fun it was to secretly leave a gift or pay for the next person’s coffee. The acts of generosity were met with smiles, or sheer astonishment.
I suppose it is the right ‘thing to do for Lent’ if I’m enjoying it, isn’t it? Or should I hunt out some sackcloth and sweep up a few ashes from the fireplace ready for Ash Wednesday
Annie Try is the pen-name of Angela Hobday, ACW Chair. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and Old English Sheepdog. Juggling her life between her work, church, family and writing, she aims to be a scribbling missionary.