Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and thus the first day of the Lenten season. I myself did not grow up practicing (celebrating?) Lent. I was raised non-denominational and we just celebrated Easter. The resurrection was most important to us and by all means it is the cornerstone of our faith.
However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more interested in the beauty behind the history of the Church. I was not familiar with the liturgical calendar and I grew up thinking Lent was only for Catholics. And I was not one and therefore did not ask many questions. All I knew was that people wore ashes and couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. And I didn’t even really know that until I was in high school. So yes, I did tell someone once in middle school that there was something on their forehead and mimed to them the “wipe your face” action. God bless me.
I am not an expert and I wont get into all the details because most of you probably know more than I do. So to keep it ultra brief, Lent is a period of the 40ish days before Easter. It represents the time Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness while he resisted temptation from Satan. In Erin Moon’s guide to Lent she says, “Eastern Orthodoxy refers to Lent as the ‘Bright Sadness.’ … Lent is an oxymoron: a dark period that culminates in the most joyful part of earth’s history.”
I remember talk among classmates of, “What are you giving up for Lent?” They would list things like Coke, Hot Cheetos, or cussing. I would think to myself, “Well, I’m not Catholic. I’m not giving up any of that!”
What I’ve come to learn is that the period of fasting is to bring you closer to Christ. I was familiar with fasting for breakthrough and fasting with a need. But I think fasting for Lent is so beautiful because its only purpose is to strengthen your connection with Jesus. I’m not coming to the table asking for anything other than to know Him better. To further understand what He went through in order to rescue me.
I’ve also found that many people observe Lent in different ways. Some people fast something for 40 days. Others add something to their lives for that time period; bible study, quiet time, worship. I heard it described like this, “If what you are doing brings you closer to the cross then you’re doing it right.”
This year I will observe Lent in the latter way. I will keep my eyes on the cross and do something that enhances my relationship with Christ.
So maybe this post isn’t for my friends who already know all about Lent and have spent their entire lives observing this time of the year. You already know how special and sacred this time is. Maybe this post is for my friends who’ve never understood much of it because they weren’t raised in a faith that observed it. It’s not just for Catholics. Anglicans, Episcopalians and other faiths honor this time as well.
You do not have to practice Lent to be a “good Christian.” I don’t even know how to define that term. I’m just making the case to those of us who don’t have it as an established part of our faith to think about it. Think about how different your life might be in 40 days if you consciously do something, additive or subtractive, that will bring you closer to Christ. Forty days of really focusing on the cross will reinforce your faith in quite possibly a way it’s never been strengthened before.
Please give me grace if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong. Like I said, I’m not an expert. I observed Lent with intention for the first time last year, and I think it is beautiful and sacred and worth talking about with others. Easter is coming, and with it the joy of the resurrection. But before Christ was raised from the dead He endured so much suffering solely to save us.
I love the amplified version of this following verse. It so clearly explains why I have come to appreciate and observe this season.
“And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 AMP
NOTE: Extra post on Thursday!