Finding Freedom in Lent

As I move through Lent with this new lens of joy and the work towards the new life of Spring, I’m reflecting on the Thomas Merton quote I read on the third day of Lent about how to discern the will of God.

“In all the situations of life the “will of God” comes to us not merely as an external dictate of impersonal law but above all as an interior invitation of personal love . . . the very nature of each situation usually bears written into itself some indication of God’s will. For whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy, or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God.” [1]

This feels like a natural segue from Jesus’ Greatest Commandment.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’” (From Matthew 22, The Message)

If we make the commandment to love the purpose of our daily life, we will do God’s will. It simplifies everything. How freeing is that!

The more I thought about love’s freedom, the more I wondered what it would feel like to truly live in that freedom. How would my life be different? What would I “give myself permission” to do that fear has kept me from doing? I looked up freedom in the thesaurus, and the words read like a poem of a new mantra for my life:

Carte Blanche
Free Rein

I’ve also been reading This Here Flesh, by Cole Arthur Riley, as part of my Lenten spiritual journey to explore the significance of the human body and build new connections with my own body. The theme of freedom popped up again. Cole invites us to truly inhabit our bodies, connect with our feelings and find freedom from our past.

“People think liberation is a future unfolding before us. But the path to freedom stretches out in both directions. It is what you’ve inherited, your first and last breath. Walk backward and graze your gramma’s face, unshackle your father from the bathroom floor. Go ahead and cry, flip the table, and then repair it in time for the feast. If it’s freedom you’re after, go marvel at the sky, then look down at your own marvelous hands. Rest your souled body with another sacred body and tell each other the truth: Your dignity cannot be chained.” [2]

My Lenton Freedom Work

I’ve been writing fiction, a folk tale, these days loosely based on my family story. I’ve given myself the freedom to imagine the details I don’t have while staying true to the feel of those lives. Even though my grandparents and parents passed away some time ago, I have realized how much their story lives in me. I feel like I’m setting them free from my body, mind, and spirit. Releasing the narrative I’ve attached to our choices and their consequences.

My spiritual director asked me when I feel most like most self. I thought of times when I felt successful, relevant, or needed. I thought of all the personality tests and the surveys to uncover my gifts that I’ve taken over the years, trying to understand myself better. But without all that, without the roles I play in various relationships, who am I? In retirement, I feel like I’m shedding those layers of self I was. It feels a bit like recovering from an addiction. Waves of being caught in old ways of thinking and having to come clean again. Setting those personas free.

This Lent, I’m in search of being more at ease in my body and moving more easily through the world. Less ramping up, less accomplishing. This isn’t about avoiding the painful or difficult. It’s more about breaking my body’s habitual response to take action. To allow my body and spirit space so I can freely choose how to respond and for life to unfold in its time. This is my work now in light of this new understanding of God’s will and the commandment to love.


As we move through the season of Lent, what is God’s will for you? What is truth, justice, mercy, and love calling you to leave behind in the ashes of Lent?

“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! “

Romans 8:12-17, The Message

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, Kindle (New York: New Directions Books, 1961), 16.
[2] Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh (New York: Convergent Books, 2022), 195.

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s