Lent is a 40-day season of reflection and preparation for Easter. It often includes times of prayer, self-examination, repentance, and self-denial. Over the years I have used many different Lenten devotions, and this year I decided to create a new way of reflecting. While reading ideas for celebrating Lent during the pandemic, I came across the idea of taking a “Lenten walk.” That sparked the idea of incorporating a Lenten reflection into my daily walks on the beach. (You can use this idea anywhere. See the bottom of this post for how to adapt to your situation.)
Because my Lenten walk was on a beach, I chose four coastline objects as symbols upon which to reflect.
Sand: Walk on the sand.
As I walk on the beach, I spend some time thinking about Jesus, who after he was baptized, chose to go into the desert for 40 days. Forty Days!! That is a long time to go without food. That is a very long time to be alone with just one own’s thoughts—no conversations with friends—no listening to podcasts—only listening to those voices which tempt one to focus on their self-interested “P’s: My Power, My Position, My Popularity.” (For more on the “P’s” see the book, Your God Is Too Small.)
Optional Reading: Luke 4-1-13
Rock: Look for a rock.
As I continue my walk, I find a twisted rock. As I feel its unyielding surface, I am invited to think of the hard, stone-like places in my heart and mind. Is my mind closed and hard-hearted toward another person or group of people? Are there “rocks” in my life, which I just cannot seem to get around or over? What rock wall separates me from God, others, or my true self? Can I name one rock in my life, ask for forgiveness and symbolically throw that rock into the ocean? (I know I may have to perform this ritual many times in the future, but today I can begin ridding my life of one life-squelching stone.)
Optional Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
Shell and Water: Pick a shell which reminds you of yourself.
Seashells, especially the scallop shell, is an ancient symbol of baptism. When Jesus was baptized God spoke to him saying, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” As I walk the beach today, I look for a shell which reminds me of myself. Eventually, I find a large piece of a clam shell. It is broken with a jagged edge. As I rub my fingers over the inside surface, it is smooth and lovely. There are hints of its beauty everywhere. I wonder how it looks and feels in its completed form. I walk to the edge of the water and bend and fill my shell with a little water. Then I pour the water over my head and remember God’s words to me: “You are my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.” I repeat this blessing over and over in my mind. I allow this title “beloved” to fill my heart and mind: “I am beloved.”
Optional Reading: Mark 1: 9-12, Genesis 1:27
Give Thanks: Survey that which surrounds you.
Today, as an ending to my Lenten beach walk, I pause and name in my mind all the facets which make up this beautiful scene. I notice the many colors and shapes that surround me. I smile at the ever-changing hues of the ocean, how the sand feels on my feet, the sanderlings scurrying on their tiny skinny legs, the pelicans soaring in the blue sky, how the wind feels on my face, and on and on. I end my Lenten walk with a heart-felt AMEN!
Optional Reading: Genesis 1, Psalm 8
I look forward to another Lenten walk on the beach soon. May you also find a way to incorporate a Lenten reflection into your daily life.
Ideas for Modifying Your Lenten Walk
If you are unable to walk by body of water, perhaps you could walk in the woods or country road. Using your imagination, make changes in the symbols you collect, for example:
- Look for rocks, stones, fallen branches, leaves, unique snow formations or icicles
- Instead of shells, bring a small bottle of water with you
And finally, if you are unable to take a walk outside, you can still experience a Lenten “walk” in your home.
You may also enjoy these articles on Lent: