4 Little Things A Queer Christian Can Do For Lent (Or Just The Next 40 Days)

In this biweekly column, Audrey explores what it means to be a queer Christian in a world where Christianity is weaponized against minorities, including the LGBTQ community.


Growing up, Lent functioned more as a cultural ritual or chance to set a personal challenge (like giving up soda or Facebook) than a spiritual time. This is likely because Presbyterians don’t have any specific requirements for Lent, so I followed the lead of my Catholic friends and tried to figure out what the big deal was. For those who don’t know, Lent marks the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is very prominent in Catholic traditions, whereas Protestant theologian John Calvin basically dismissed it as superstitious hogwash. But over the last couple decades it has started to make its way back into mainline churches. Christians are advised to fast, pray, and self-reflect during this time.

Calvin could be a bit snooty at times.

Anyway, I guess it makes sense that Lent always sneaks up on me because I never really knew why I should care about it. The people around me didn’t seem to. Even though I’ve had Ash Wednesday services in my planner for weeks, I didn’t think at all about Lent until it was happening. Although giving up soda is a noble goal, it doesn’t have anything to do with faithful reflection. That lack of real connection is the reason I haven’t commemorated Lent at all since I was in high school. But it is very hard to be a queer person in the world right now, and it’s also an especially hard time to be a queer person in church, even my relatively welcoming one. I made a list of four things I could do during Lent that would make the 40-day period meaningful and prepare me to celebrate the Resurrection and all it represents. I am sharing it with y’all because regardless of your faith or lack thereof, it is important to be intentional now and then about the ways we engage with our brains and the world. This is as good a time as any, I think.

1. Give yourself time

This post is up a full week after Ash Wednesday, and I decided that was okay. I am my own harshest critic, and nothing makes my anxiety spiral faster than believing I have allowed my imperfections to show. But I am committing to patience this season. I promise myself that I will pause longer, consider my choices more thoughtfully, and forgive myself when I can’t move as quickly as I think I should. In a cultural and political moment where everything seems urgent and impossible, we have to find ways to check in with ourselves and give ourselves grace for the fact that we cannot save the world alone.

2. Read a lot of poetry and a little bit of scripture

I don’t do either of these things hardly at all because they scare the fuck out of me, but like I said this is all about setting intentions. The problem is that when I read poetry, including the Psalms, it messes with my alignment. It forces me to sit up straighter and recognize words and ideas that pluck at the sinewy parts of myself I ignore. I hope in these few weeks we can all try to read some things that scare us. For starters, here are the last two stanzas of a poem by Jan Richardson that my friend shared on Facebook and I had to just stare at it for a while.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

3. Go outside

IT IS SPRING. Is it spring where you are? We’ve already surpassed 80 a couple times in Dallas. One of my favorite things about Lent is that it welcomes longer, warmer days. As Easter approaches, new flowers bloom and new birds sing. Whatever your favorite way to be outside is, I hope you make time to do it. Panentheist understandings of God resonate very closely with me (essentially the idea that what we call God is in and of the entire physical universe and also exists outside of time and space), so being in nature is a very important part of my spiritual practice. Of course we can seek the divine in anything and everything, but it is easier to find in a perfectly strange flower than the pen cup on my desk, ya know? So my partner and I went camping this weekend and drank coffee on a log by a lake, and even though it was grey and windy, I felt thankful for a peaceful 24 hours with which to reset my brain.

4. Find a way to pray that doesn’t hurt

I’ve decided to read a psalm every day of Lent, starting with Psalm 90 because it is about how humans are dust and God will return us to that state at the end of their lives, and how perhaps we can do some work that matters before then. I am very good at praying aloud in groups and absolutely terrible at praying alone. It makes me feel ridiculous and humiliated, and my mind wanders like a 4-year-old in the cereal aisle whenever I pray silently. I am hoping that this will help me focus. What do y’all do to focus your prayers? Are there any devotionals out there that won’t make my eyeballs fall out of my head from rolling them so hard? Let’s chat in the comments.


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Audrey is a writer, a Texan and a sometimes-heretical Presbyterian. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Audrey on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

Audrey has written 136 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Audrey. I find that giving something up tends to become an obsession for me, so I’ve tried to focus on adding things instead my last few Lents. I read Four Quartets slowly over the course of the whole season, sometimes out loud. It helps me think about time and loss and grace. It helps me move toward accepting death so I can be ready for resurrection.

  2. Like a good Episcopalian, I refer to the Book of Common Prayer and its daily office. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Lord’s Prayer. It’s basically a rubric: acknowledge God’s power and our faith in him, give thanks for what we have and ask for what we want, ask forgiveness and future guidance. I need some structure in order to keep praying, but the codified prayers can be a jumping-off point for extemporaneous devotion or supplication.

  3. I like to pray the Book of Common Prayer Compline service before bed. Coming up with the ‘right’ words can become a barrier to spending time with God, and I find a lot of freedom in something beautiful that I didn’t have to come up with. I also really like Praying in Color which is a sort of guide for doodle prayers.

  4. I am heavily dependent on my Book of Common Prayer for praying alone. I also find Lectio Divina to be a helpful way to enter into prayer. Praying is hard… Lighting candles, singing, crossing myself, saying the Our Father and the Jesus Prayer and other physical/embodied practices help me stay focused. I’m especially attached to my Virgin Mary candle. She is sometimes more approachable and warm and easy for me to contemplate than God.

    I would also love to hear if anyone has a recommendation for a devotional audiobook or podcast that is awesome (and doesn’t make me roll my eyes/get pissed)!

  5. Omg another Presbyterian queer! I wish my hometown church was as welcoming as yours. Before I even knew I was bi, I was at this session meeting (I was in session as the youth ministry assistant) where they all signed a letter condensing the decision of the Presbyterian Church USA to allow gay people to become ministers. It was awful. One of these people, who I used to respect and think of as a kind person, compared gay people to murderers:
    My pastor: Well, some people are friends with gay people and say they’re very nice.
    Guy: Well, so are murderers.
    ????
    Anyway, I have not had a relationship with that church since I left and went to college. I only go on Christmas Eve because my Dad makes me and my Mom go.
    BUG GETTING BACK TO LENT: these are all very nice ideas. When I was in elementary school I tried to give up video games for Lent. It did not work out.

  6. By comparison I don’t think I’ve ever missed an ash wednesday. I find that prayer gives me a way to pause and just think you know? That’s been difficult to do with graduation only a few months away and the essays and the job search etc. I’ve given up ALL my shows for Lent so that I’m devoting that time to God instead (the supergirl recaps make me miss it the most T.T) I’m also volunteering more at my local foodbank so that I’m taking up something too. Every year for Lent a guide called ‘Walk With Me’ is released and has thoughts and reading for everyday of Lent. This year I ordered mine off of Amazon but you can get them at (Catholic) churches and here: https://www.alivepublishing.co.uk/ . If you want something really structured there’s always the rosary, a prayer that honours the Virgin Mary especially. There’s loads of guides on how to do it online.

  7. Developing a routine and being specific has helped me focus my prayers better over the years. I begin with the Lord’s Prayer then my personal prayer. I start with giving thanks for my blessings and praise His greatness. I pray for others next. Then I finally pray for myself. Praying for guidance, clarity, peace if I’m struggling with something, etc. I still have moments of my mind wondering. When I get to the point, I usually cut my prayer short because I feel like I’m being disrespectful when it does.

    Our Daily Bread is a good devotional to read. They have it in paperbook form that can be ordered for free. But there’s also an app you can download. You can make notes as you read, bookmark devotions to read again later, and have four years worth of devotions at your fingertips.

  8. Um I have no idea if any of y’all are familiar with the fasting and observation of no meat on Fridays but uh.

    I’m “lapsed” Catholic from a very culturally catholic place where seafood is readily available so when I had catechism some of my teachers wanted to remind us the connections of charity with sacrifice during Lent. That there was nothing particularly wrong with obtaining our Friday dinner from Lenten fish fry by a school, church or charitable organisation. While some felt we should really consider reflecting on the ease of which we can obtain something not meat and seemed to have SOME OPINIONS on restaurants with Lenten specials.

    What I’m trying get around to is another small thing you can do during Lent is donate to a food pantry. Like a can of beans would be great if that’s all you can do.

    Also Saint Joseph’s feast day is always during Lent, the Sicilian traditions around his celebration are also connected to feeding the needy and most vulnerable in a community. He is the patron saint of immigrants, of orphans, adoption, families, social justice, working people, exiles and educators too.

    So Lent is a great time to reflect on giving to those in need, doing some giving if you can and forgive yourself if you can’t. Anyone can be a person in need, there is no fault in that.

  9. These are all great ideas – I love the ideas in the comments, too! I’m reading Gerard Manley Hopkins every day for Lent this year, but I’m definitely stealing the Four Quartets idea for next year.

    For several years now, my “fasting and almsgiving” Lenten observance has been to track every dollar that I spend on food during Lent, and then donate that total amount to the local food bank on Easter. It’s not a formal “giving things up,” but in practice, it means that I mostly give up eating at restaurants, and give up expensive groceries like seafood and Honeycrisp apples. It also keeps me mindful, every time I eat or buy food, of my sisters and brothers who struggle with hunger and food insecurity.

    For my prayer observance, I’ve been experimenting this year with saying the Lord’s Prayer silently in a different place every day (on the sidewalk, in my seat at the theater waiting for the show to start, on the road when traffic has slowed to a crawl), to see how my surroundings can give a new inflection to this familiar prayer, and so far I’ve been loving it! We’ll see if I can keep coming up with new places for 40 days, though…

  10. As someone who grew up Catholic but no longer practises, I still observe Lent. I view Lent more about fasting than reflection, although they go hand in hand really.

    This year I decided to give up caffeine. The headaches and cravings are a constant reminder about privilege and small sacrifice.

    I also don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent which is proving harder than I thought it would. I don’t eat red meat but I love chicken, so giving that up completely on Fridays is requiring a complete shift in routine and mindset.

  11. I really appreciate you Queer Christian posts. After years and years of feeling separated by two groups dear to my heart, I’ve found more and more resources and groups opening up to Queer Christians (LGBTQ websites, Facebook, ect.) and it makes my heart so glad and hopeful. Thank you so much!! I wish you only the best.

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