When Lent Presses In

“It occurred to me that perhaps what God calls us to give up, really, is ourselves.”  

Kris Cameally, Introduction to Holey, Wholly, Holy

It’s 7:10 on Tuesday night. It’s been a busy few days and the next two weeks are no less chaotic. We’ve eaten dinner and done the dishes. I’m sitting in my favorite corner of the couch in my favorite yoga pants and one of my husband’s fleece pullovers. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I’m 41 and for most of my life that was just a little notation on the calendar. But for the past several years, I’ve spent more and more time exploring Lenten practices.

Lent Presses In www.terilynneunderwood.com

My Southern Baptist lineage prepared me in no way for the 40-day fasting from chocolate or coffee or my favorite television show. I started with a Lenten fast simply out of curiosity. The next year it seemed natural to do it once again. For five years the giving up was on the outside. It was an act of will. Yes, I prayed and contemplated before choosing from what I would fast, but that was about it. Two years ago something changed. I found a Lenten devotional for my Kindle. Nine days into the readings, there was this:

A great Lenten question: will we allow Jesus to come into our souls and dine with us?

I wrote the question into my journal, “Will I allow Jesus to come into my soul and dine with me?” Suddenly, Lent made sense. Lent wasn’t about what I was doing but what I was seeking. You see, those first few years my motivation was outward … the discipline was the focus. But that day, March 17, 2011, was different. My motivation moved from outward to inward. My desire wasn’t so much to experience the discipline of practicing Lent but rather to devote myself to communion with Christ.

Each day as I read the prescribed passages of Scripture and contemplated the journey of Christ from the manger to the Cross, I was changed. My devotion to Scripture was deepened.  As Holy Week approached I was captivated by the sights and sounds recorded in Scripture. By Good Friday, I was struck by the depth of God’s love in a whole new way. We had a Good Friday service at our church that evening. The service ended abruptly. There was no benediction or prayer … just the sudden silence. We sat there, a congregation of Baptists used to singing a verse of “Amazing Grace” at the end of any Lord’s Supper service. We were awkward and uncomfortable. We fidgeted in our seats and we nervously looked around, waiting for one of the pastors to give us a hint about what we were supposed to do.

Isn’t that how Good Friday ought to feel?  Isn’t that where the Lenten journey should lead us … uncertain, uncomfortable? I think we like everything about our faith journey to end neatly and fit into a nicely wrapped box. We want to understand and catalog. But Lent isn’t like that. It’s awkward and hard. Lent presses in on us in ways we never really expect.

Holey Wholly Holy www.terilynneunderwood.comMy friend Kris has written a beautiful book about all of this. Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement is an invitation to travel the uncomfortable terrain of Lent. Kris shares her own awkward and stumbling journey.  As you read this book, slowly and carefully, the journey becomes your own.

I love this book.  Whether you have “done Lent” your whole lives or you really know nothing about it, Holey, Wholly, Holy
is for you.

Available for Kindle and in print, Holey, Wholly, Holy is for all of us.

How has practicing Lent changed you?



affiliate links included in this post

i was provided a copy of this book for review.  the opinions are all mine.

Read the Psalms this summer with Scripture Dig!


  1. I had never really thought about Lent that way. It was always giving something that you really loved up and only lasting maybe a week for me. I am going to have to find this book on Nook and read it and I will definitely be rethinking Lent with me and my boys. (My husband doesn’t count because he never observes Lent anyway. That and he is rarely home)

    • Laura, I know what you mean. It wasn’t until we started doing Good Friday services at our church that I really dug deep into Lent and what a gift it is to prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter. I find that Easter is much more meaningful in much deeper places inside me since I began to view Lent as an internal experience rather than external. Praying for you as you embrace this season.

  2. Lent flipped my world upside down last year as I realized I had always made it about me and not about Him… Kris’ book was eye opening for me and so was your post–love that “will we allow Jesus to come into our souls and dine with us?” thank you!

    • Nikki, I loved your introduction to Kris’ book. So honest and real. I appreciate the way you are wide open for Jesus. What a gift to those of us around you! And yes, that devotional, I’m using it again this year. 🙂

  3. Growing up, we never really made much of Lent. Now, I attend my husband’s Lutheran church and Lutherans are big on Lent. I’ve never had the self-discipline to give up anything; I feel like such a Lenten wimp in that regard, but I like your honest take on Lent as making us feel uncertain and uncomfortable. Our journeys to God are not neat, little, packaged pretty things are they?

    • A Lenten wimp … that is too funny! I suppose I’m a Lenten wimp too. But, yes, I think there is more to experiencing Lent than successfully giving up whatever for forty days … it’s the struggle, the hard fought battle … I think of Christ in the Garden praying blood-sweat and asking God if there might be another way. Being a discipline, during Lent or otherwise, is never neat and tidy … and it’s the awkward uncertainty and the fumbling discomfort that keep us moving toward the refuge of God.

  4. Haha! Us, Baptists… This is my first ever Lent. I’ve taken it own as my own celebration. I’m learning and growing as I go:)

    • Stefanie, we are a crazy bunch, we Baptists! I love the way our local churches are expanding and even embracing the centuries-old traditions of the liturgical churches. There is something to be gained from these practices and prayers. Can’t wait to hear how your Lenten journey goes.

  5. Like you I did not grow up with Lent as a part of my worship experience. I could never understand how “lent” had anything to do with chocolate or not eating between meals…it was a “catholic” thing my sister in laws did. Then I became UM and picked up my first Lenten booklet. My decision to not give up something, but instead ADD something, quiet time with God, each day changed my life. I can’t imagine a day without it now. Sometimes that means reading blogs by you ladies, sometimes a devotional, sometimes a specific lenten booklet, or listening to praise and worship music, but a time set aside to worship God each day. It enables me to better be the woman God created me to be. Thanks for your posts! God bless our journey.


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