I was raised evangelical Christian. I always thought Lent was something that just Catholics participated in and never really thought about why they did it, or whether or not I should. It was so far off my radar in fact, that I never knew it was coming until the day of, when I would notice people here and there with ash smeared on their forehead. I considered giving up cookies or something once. But that was just because I needed an excuse to give up cookies...not because it would have had any meaning whatsoever!
Last year, I started thinking about Lent a little bit more, although I don't think I gave anything up, or even gave it a whole lot more thought than before. This year though...this year, I really started thinking about it, what it means, what the purpose is, and whether this is something strictly for Catholics (which I don't believe it is), or if I could/should take part. I did Advent this last Christmas for the first time ever, with the intent of being mindful every day of what we were coming up on: The coming of Christ to walk among His people, to rescue humanity. I didn't want to get lost in the busyness of the season, getting so wrapped up in parties, gifts, and decorations, at the expense of losing the Christ in Christmas. Lent is like Advent, in that it's a way to prepare my heart for the coming celebration of Easter (or 'Resurrection Sunday', for those of you who have a hard time calling it 'Easter') But unlike Christmas, Easter morning tends to sneak up on me, and I often find my heart unprepared for the depth of the holiday. Lent is heart preparation. Mindfulness. Surrender. Letting go of what's unnecessary in order to receive that which is the only thing necessary: more of Him. Less of me.
Obviously I'm a first time Lent practicer. I haven't even given anything up yet. I keep forgetting. I'm planning on starting tomorrow, but you know what? That's the beauty of it. I'm not doing it to be legalistic or to prove anything to God or anyone else, or to earn righteousness, or to feel good about myself. I'm not doing it to be more religious. I'm doing it to reset; to refresh; to take inventory and re-evaluate. For the first time ever, I'm doing a lent devotional, and it's by far the BEST devotional of any kind I've ever done, ever. (If you're looking for a devo right now, I highly recommend jumping right into this one! It's so so so deep and yet so down to earth, practical, and easy to read.) A Christian man I barely know semi-attacked me for participating in Lent, saying it's absolutely unnecessary and that true Christians should take time to re-evaluate their spiritual life on a daily basis, and should focus daily on repentance and Christ's work on the cross and new life that came from His resurrection. While I can agree with that, I still believe that there is a certain significance to Lent, and if you're convicted to participate, you can and should! Certainly we don't need to participate in Lent or any other kind of fasting or ritual in order to be saved. I know that there are plenty of people out there who do Lent because they feel like they have to because they were raised that way or feel bound to it as a religious duty; yet they give something petty up and don't think twice about the meaning of what they're doing. It has no significance. I love what the writer of the devotional 'She Reads Truth' wrote a couple of weeks ago, regarding the reason of the Lenten season...
[Lent] is a time for us – Protestants, Catholics, Jesus followers, Truth seekers – to acknowledge not just our acts of sin but our condition of sinfulness before the Lord. It is a time to turn to him in mourning and to return to Him in trust anew, believing He is faithful to forgive and forgive again....Backwards as it may seem, we come to Lent for refreshment. We fast – be it from a comfort or a thing, an action or an indulgence – to receive. We give up that which we do not need to live, to gain that which we cannot live without: more Jesus. We hold ourselves back from the everyday trappings of life simply to refocus our gaze and re-firm our grip on him. We do not fast for fasting’s sake, but only to draw near to Him.
I don't know if I'll participate in Lent every year, but I kind of think I will. Of course we shouldn't only think about repentance and Christ and the cross and the resurrection once a year. Of course I can't earn anything or become more righteous or more holy by participating. But for me personally, I need these stepping stones through out the year. New Year's resolutions, Advent, Lent, etc. I think it's good to have these times of getting out of whatever routine I'm in, changing it up a bit, re-focusing, refreshing, starting over in some sense. Maybe next year I'll remember to actually start on Ash Wednesday and I'll follow through the full forty days. Maybe I'll teach my kids about Lent, or maybe it'll just be a personal thing I do in my walk with the Lord. Who knows. For now, I'm okay with not being "all-in", I'm okay with starting late and not knowing all there is to know about it. All I know is it's a wonderful time of renewal--and how timely that it happens to go hand in hand with the snow melting and the trees and flowers budding and the promise of Spring coming! What a beautiful picture God's given us! If you're interested in the devotional I was talking about, you can check it out here .
Hope you have a beautiful Sunday!