Lent came early this year, starting on February 14. For this reason, many followers of Jesus wonder if they have missed it. It is interesting to note that Christian traditions worldwide use several timelines to enter spiritual seasons. Consider how an Orthodox friend of mine will begin his Lent journey on March 18, leading toward an Easter Sunday on May 5, not March 31.

My point? You can still join a season marked with spiritual significance if you start a little “late.” Lent is available beneath any literal 40-day observance or condensed timeline, and it is time to embrace it.

Lent is still open.

An Open Lent Concept: Give Up or Take Up.

Jesus’ journey in the wilderness is a season we seek to emulate during Lent. Christ fasted there, and for this reason, we might also fast.1 The act of giving up something helps us put roots into this truth: We are mortal and limited.

We might be tempted to ask ourselves,

  • What if I miss my favorite food?
  • What if I do not get included in the next group chat if I step away from my phone?
  • What if I miss a friend’s important update if I’m not on social media as much?

These are great questions, yet there is freedom in realizing we cannot cling to anything that tightly. God said in the book Genesis:

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.2

Job echoes this same truth this way:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.3

God gives us our lives, families, moments, and meals—what a gift to hold these while we can. A healthy humbling before the Lord happens as we remember to loosen our grip on certain things because we will not hold them forever. For example, relaxing a grip on screen time helps us look into the eyes of those around us more frequently.

God, in Christ, crossed the chasm of our sins and sought us out through the Spirit so that we may draw near to grace. No desert temptation or surplus of anything compares to the eternal gift of that relationship. Lent reminds us of that.

Lent additionally invites us to take up the ways of Jesus. As we seek to emulate Christ’s journey in the wilderness, we know he frequently prayed there. We can take up a posture of prayer or anything else we see modeled by Jesus. Lent is an excellent season to consider the ’90s throwback, WWJD. A fresh perspective: Who would Jesus be in this moment? Jesus asked good questions (Mk 10:51) and was gentle with those treated harshly (Jn 8:7). Take up one of those or anything else you see modeled in Jesus.

As you read, you may already have ideas about how to proceed with this Lenten concept. If not, here are two that you could consider. One concerns the interior journey toward God, and the other is a posture toward the exterior world.

The Interior Journey: A Commitment to Confronting Fears.

What about giving up the avoidance of fears? You might be worried about the collapse of a dream, an uncertain future for your kids, or opportunities diminishing in your career field. It is natural to avoid our fears. However, great mental and spiritual freedom can come from facing them head-on. Dr. Seth J. Gillihan says:

When we’ve decided we’re no longer willing to live enslaved by fear…It’s no longer a question of whether we will face our fear, but simply of how.4

Dr. Gillihan is saying that the decision to face our fears, followed by the commitment to the work involved in understanding or confronting them, is most of the battle. From that intentional and decisive point, facing fears will take time.

Lent can be the starting point of a committed journey into the wilderness of fears, with Christ leading you. There are limits to facing fears alone. I recommend Dr. Gillihan’s book Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks as a starting point. A session with a therapist or spiritual director to process fears will also be helpful.

The Exterior Posture: Taking Up Honey

At Lent, we often get caught up in What’s Not Allowed. Let us consider what is allowed. Honey is historically allowed and accessible at Lent, especially in the Orthodox tradition. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” What if you, like Orthodox Christians of years past, added honey to your diet this Lent? Mix some in your hot tea or find other ways to consume it.

Further, what if we consider the menu of our words? This Lent, bypass overly critical comments or gossip and take up kind words. Speak kindly to yourself. It’s nearly impossible to overflow with kind words to others if we cannot speak them to ourselves. Find the kindness of God in the words of Christ:

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. – Jesus5

Lent is a great season to practice kindness, specifically in the words we speak to ourselves and others.

Open 24/7

Lent is still open, no matter how quickly it snuck up on us this year. It is worth adopting a Lenten practice, even a simple one, to journey toward Easter Sunday. Lent’s invitation stands. Its neon lights still buzz: “OPEN.” Will you walk through the door? Enter Lent in some form, with Easter Sunday on the horizon.


Father, draw us near to your heart while we bring you ours, fears and all. Christ, help us emulate you and let us take your hand in the wilderness. Spirit, help us follow your fruits in this world by seeking kindness in our words, and forgive us our sins when they fall short. Amen.


  1. See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, or Luke 4:1-13.
  2. Genesis 3:19 NRSVue
  3. Job 1:21 NRSVue
  4. Gillihan, Dr. Seth J. Online Article. 12/5/16. Full URL: https://sethgillihan.com/week-6-cbt-7-weeks-facing-fears/
  5. John 15:15 NRSVue
Ryan Cobb
Ryan is the lead pastor of Millersville BIC in Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife Ashlie and their two children in Washington Boro, Pa. They have chickens, a rabbit, a barn cat, and a miniature horse. Ryan enjoys working on the property and with the animals, fishing and kayaking on the nearby Conestoga River, leisurely reading, intentionally writing or journaling, and following football.

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