I love Lent.
I always have. And from the time I was a little kid, I’ve always liked to challenge myself to give up something bigger and better every year – I almost didn’t make it through the Lent without chocolate (made more painful because Ash Wednesday fell before Valentine’s Day… ouch).
But you’re not hardcore unless you Lent hardcore, right?
The best Lent of my life was my sophomore year of college, when I gave up time. 40 minutes, in particular, for the 40 days of Lent. Giving up sweets and meats and caffeine (just kidding, I could never do that) are good sacrifices, for sure – but if the whole point is to strengthen our relationship with God, then shouldn’t we do things that will, you know, strengthen our relationship with Him?
Giving up things can certainly help us to grow spiritually – there is no love without sacrifice. But in order to have a strong relationship, with anyone, it’s essential to spend time with them. And as a college sophomore, I knew that the thing I needed the most in my relationship with God was to simply hang out with Him more.
So, I committed: 40 minutes of “devotional time” every single day. You can call it quiet time, prayer time, or just… time – whatever you need to call it so it doesn’t sound like a punishment. I didn’t really know what to call it. I just knew that I was going to do it.
Think about it: 40 minutes isn’t a huge block of time. It’s one drama or two sitcoms on Netflix. We can all find 40 minutes in a day. We just have to choose to do it.
Because I was a college kid, without a regular schedule, it happened at a different time every day. And because I have spiritual ADD, and easily get bored doing the same thing over and over, I mixed it up and did something different every day. It didn’t matter how I spent the time, it just mattered that I spent it with Him.
If you need ideas on how to “waste” 40 minutes on Him this Lent, here’s my list of tips and tricks. I know I never did the same thing two days in a row. There are some things I might have done once the whole season. But every day, without fail, He got my 40 minutes. And my relationship with Him exploded during that time.
There was Mass somewhere on my campus 4x/day. No excuses. And most daily Masses last about 30 minutes, so with a little time to reflect and pray before or after, 40 minutes goes by in no time.
If you live somewhere with seasons, Lent usually coincides nicely with the weather warming up. Find a podcast that works for you, pop in the earbuds, and go for a walk around your neighborhood, campus, local park.
- Mark Hart’s Sunday, Sunday, Sunday Podcast
- Catholic Stuff You Should Know
- Fr. Mike Schmitz at UMD Newman Center
- Ben Stuart at Breakaway Ministries, Texas A&M
- Andy Stanley
Let’s face it, life is loud. Between school, home, the dorm, etc., there are a lot of people in your space, 24/7. So sneak off to the closest church or chapel to get some peace and quiet. That Lent, I lived in a dorm with a chapel attached. If you’ve got one of those, use it! If not, go to the closest church and just hang out with Him. Bonus points if you can find Eucharistic Adoration.
I’m a writer, that’s my jam. Often, I’d bring a notebook to the chapel and write to Him. Sometimes, it was “Here’s how my day was, God.” Other times, it was, “Here’s a list of all the people I love, so I’m praying for them now.” Sometimes, it was doodling. Sometimes, it was reflecting on something I’d read. It didn’t matter. It was just getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper. And sometimes, He spoke through that.
There’s the Bible, obviously. It’s the Word of God, so that’s always a good place to go. I’d recommend not going in there alone – get some resources on a particular book or passage and use those to help break it down. Otherwise, it’s really easy to get stuck on “Obed begat Jesse, Jesse begat so-and-so, etc., etc.” But there’s other spiritual reading, too – daily reflection books, lives of the saints, classics, modern guys, and so on.
We were made to worship, and we are always worshiping something. So rather than worshiping yourself, your image, your reputation… worship Him. Like the podcasts, pop in some worship music and go for a walk, a run, or sit in the chapel, or your room. Fill your ears (and heart and mind and soul) with His praises.
There are other ways to “waste” time on Him, for sure. These were the ones that worked best for me, knowing my own prayer style and how God and I best talk to one another. And like I said, it doesn’t really matter how you spend the time, as long as you spend it with Him.
Now that I really think about it… that Lent was absolutely the best Lent of my life. And you know what? I think I’m ready for another Lent like that.
So if you choose to accept the challenge, then I’ll see you there. 40 minutes for 40 days. Let’s do this.