40 Days and Nights: Rolling in the Deep for Lent

Urban Cusp features Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton as the guest contributor on “40 Days and Nights,” a weekly series exploring the interconnection between the spiritual, personal, and social dimensions of daily life for Lent. 40 Days and Nights offers insightful, down to earth discussion on everyday issues that challenge us to add a little here, and subtract a little over there, as we go deeper in our relationship with God, self and others.

I saw a woman with two small children walking the streets yesterday. The babies were energetic and seemingly oblivious to their mother’s fatigue as she did her best to make it down a chilly Atlanta street with two children in tow. It wasn’t just the temperature, and it wasn’t just how slow she was moving. What I saw was the heavy weight of worry that seemed to settle around her shoulders. Were they living in homelessness, roving from pillar to post? I thought of this family when I read the headline of a Washington Post article, 600 homeless children in DC and No One Seems to Care.

The faces of this Atlanta woman, her children, and the unnamed faces of DC’s 600 homeless children (not whether or not I would give up some food, or cutback on watching TV) are on my mind as I launch into this five week Lent series with the Urban Cusp family.

The babies are on my mind for Lent. The women, men and children who have been cut down and kept down by violence, illness, and lack have my attention.

I’m asking myself, how can I spend the next 40 days and nights trying to change my consciousness, spirit and habits to impact change beyond myself?

For the next 40 days and nights I invite you to think, pray and dialogue with me about the Lenten journey. For some folks, this will be a time to give up something that is related to an area of challenge. Others will spend the time stretching themselves to add something. Keep in mind, what you add or give up doesn’t always have to be material. What about changing your ways and your thinking?

Instead of cussing every day you wake up to go to your job, acknowledge this job as a stepping stone, check the funky attitude at the door, speak positive words of forward motion, and ask God for the clarity to develop a solid exit plan.

If you’re like me and have a tendency to be overwhelmed by society’s big problems (HIV/AIDS, intimate partner violence, homelessness,) break it down into tasks you can manage for the next 40 days. For example, we’re in the throes of winter. Think about washing and donating old blankets, coats and any other clothes your children have outgrown. Offer your interest and/or expertise as a volunteer to an agency that focuses on public policies that impact systemic transformation. At the very least, commit 40 days to looking people in the face when they ask you for assistance. How would you change a person’s day (and your own self), if even when you have nothing to give them, you offer the deeper respect of eye contact that acknowledges their humanity?

Then, there are relationships (the one you have with your own self, as well as with God and others). Is there a part of yourself that you just can’t muster the strength to accept, let alone, love? Are you unable to let yourself, someone else, or maybe even God (I speak of what I know on this one) off the hook? What would it be like to spend the next 40 days and nights slowly opening your most vulnerable truths up for deep healing, restoration and affirmation?

Recently, we saw lots of folks walking the streets with crosses smudged across their foreheads for Ash Wednesday. They’ve participated in the ritual of ashes that marks the beginning of the Lent journey. Every ritual has an outward expression, but it also has a hidden deeper meaning that speaks of God’s inner transforming activity. Don’t stop with the outward expression. Hope you got your ashes, and now let’s go rolling in the deep on all things spiritual, personal and social.


Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. She currently resides in Pennsylvania and enjoys writing about culture, religion, and social justice issues. Follow her on Twitter @smcrumpton1.

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