Lent, or, the season of Lent, is an annual observance that is practiced by some sub-groups of the Church universal (that is, the church around the world). I say sub-groups, because not all segments of Christianity are in the regular rhythm of observing the pre-Easter events of Lent and Ash Wednesday (the day that kicks off Lent).
I’d encourage you to watch the video (below) I put out just last week, about Ash Wednesday, Lent, and some of the questions that revolve around those [potentially] mysterious church rhythms.
Lent has historically been a time where those who participated in it engage in an intentional season- generally the 40 days leading up to Easter- of repentance, prayer, almsgiving, and perhaps the most commonly observed element- fasting.
I say most commonly observed because…doesn’t it seem like everyone is ‘giving something up’ for Lent? You know, not literally everyone, but, lots of people you wouldn’t expect (like those who don’t go to church- gasp!).
I don’t know where you land. You may want nothing to do with Lent- OK! You may be super content with giving up chocolate, social networking, or alcohol- great!
If you haven’t already, go ahead and watch the video (now it’s above). Then, if you are going to participate in Lent this year, allow me to interject my two-cents worth of considerations:
1. Fast something “that matters.” What are the things, whether trivial or not, that you find yourself saying, “You need” all the time? Into what are you escaping? What is a constant distraction to the world around you, and, ends up hindering you toward living a full life? Consider giving that up.
2. There will also be a temptation to add something. Don’t. Here’s what I mean: A lot of times when we start having conversations about making a change in our lives, we say things like, “I’m going to stop doing ‘X’ and start doing ‘Y.’” One example, but a common one: “I’m going to stop watching so much TV, but I’m going to start reading.” I understand that, just because of how life works, you are going to fill the time you are fasting with something else (if what you fast is a time consumer). Keep your focus on what you are fasting. One of the key elements of fasting is that we learn what it means to live life weaker, or dependent, or vulnerable. But then the goal of fasting is that we learn that life can go on, and DOES ALWAYS go on, without certain stuff. Otherwise, what’s the point? Right? Right.
3. Being intentional makes Easter that much more powerful. I ask this question in the video (now it’s way more above us…why haven’t you watched it yet?!): “What if the awesomeness of Easter lasted for more than just a Sunday morning?” Come on now- who wouldn’t want that?! Human existence is forever changed because of the events that are celebrated during Easter gatherings- that’s a big deal! Listen, if Easter has gotten a bit stale or predictable for you (be honest here), then strongly consider diving into Ash Wednesday / Lent.
4. This is a massive opportunity for spiritual formation- know that going in. If you are at all trying to do things the Jesus way, wow, what a great opportunity to grow! Sometimes growing hurts, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. When it comes to our spiritual lives, where there is growth, there is life! So, go on now- live a little.
I pray you let the upcoming season shape you in ways that it, maybe, never has.