By Dave Tiessen


One of things businesses regularly do (have to do) is take inventory. 

To prepare an annual financial statement the business needs to get an accurate count of its assets so these have to be counted. Even more so retail businesses need to get that once-a-year count – on year-end year-beginning day – to be able to understand and report accurately on how much merchandise/product was sold and how much is left “on the shelf.”

My guess is that doing inventory is not the most fun part of owning/running a business? Please correct me if I’m wrong. I have been in stores and observed workers doing the counting of the thousands of products on the shelves and my first impression is that such work would drive me crazy.

We are currently in the “inventory” season Christians call Lent – 40 days and six Sundays from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14 this year) to Easter Saturday (March 30 this year). Not all Christians “keep” Lent, and a common practice for some that do is depriving oneself of a luxury that one really enjoys, like coffee or chocolate. (I have yet to hear of anyone taking on the Lenten discipline of not eating brussel sprouts or resisting cleaning out and organizing the deep freezer in the basement.)

Many Christians see Lent as an opportunity to take inventory of what’s going on inside, to dig more deeply into their faith, values and relationship with God. Over most of the year most of us tend to be somewhat (or frantically?) busy with our lives and very frequently feel like we simply don’t have time or energy to focus on such impractical matters. Just like doing yoga or working out at the exercise club, it is definitely easier when there are others around us who are doing the same thing. 

I would suggest that “keeping Lent” in the sense of taking inventory of what’s going on “inside” is not just for Christians, it’s a good thing for all of us to do. This is so especially because that which gives our lives the most meaning and joy is not the “things” we acquire and have, but the intangible gifts of the heart, mind and soul: values, commitments, love, relationships, vision, purpose, compassion, generosity, meaning, peace, transcendence, God, hope, etc.

Unfortunately nurturing these valuable gifts does not usually demand attention and time and work, like the more physical aspects of daily living. Not only that, but we also tend to take them for granted – that they just “are” and we don’t need to nurture and attend to them. 

We would do well to think of these intangible gifts – values, commitments, love, relationships, vision, purpose, compassion, generosity, meaning, peace, transcendence, God, hope, etc. – as houseplants. They are a beautiful condiment to our daily living and we do tend to take them very much for granted. However, it becomes quickly apparent if we are neglecting to care for them as they need, for it is not long before their beauty turns into ugly droop and decay.

Likewise the invaluable intangible gifts of heart, mind and soul will tolerate some being taken for granted, but much less so neglect of care and nurture. 

As we care and nurture them less and less our living becomes more and more superficially focused on the “things” of life – the stuff, entertainments, status symbols, satisfying physical desires, consumption, etc. – that we are bombarded to buy and partake of by the pleasure-obsessed culture that beckons us.

“Keeping Lent” – even if you’re not a Christian – by spending significant time and energy, for a sustained period of time every year, on appreciating, caring for and nurturing the priceless gifts of heart, mind and soul, will go a long way towards enhancing this care and nurture more consistently for the rest of the year. 

This means taking inventory of what’s going on inside: reflecting on what is good and giving thanks, seeing what needs improving and exploring how we might do so, recognizing the possibilities for enhanced genuine quality of life and imagining how we might open ourselves to that, and maybe pondering how it is with me and God, and whether I would like to know God more deeply.

In the past some Christian traditions made Lent mandatory for their people. Thankfully that is less common nowadays. The kind of “Lent keeping” I have here been encouraging cannot be “shoulded.” If someone is only doing it because they feel they “should,” it is highly unlikely that much spiritual benefit will result.

At its best “keeping Lent” is experienced as a joyful opportunity, with the support and help of others to do ‘inventory’ of the most important stuff of life – values, commitments, love, relationships, vision, purpose, compassion, generosity, meaning, peace, transcendence, God, hope, etc. – and then to nurture these to greater strength and influence in our living.