I’m not sure if you are a faithful follower of Christ, have read here often, or just stumbled upon this blog today. Regardless, as we enter the Lenten season (the 40 days leading up to Easter), I wanted to acknowledge this time – what it is and means – and how observing it can grow our faith. It doesn’t matter to what denomination of the Christian faith one adheres, the significance and tradition behind Lent is generally recognized in some way, shape, or form.
This year, I wanted to give a tiny overview of my experience with Lent growing up and what it is traditionally, as well as offer some ideas and resources for observing Lent individually and as a family!
I grew up in a faith tradition that recognized Lent, we went to church on Ash Wednesday and every Wednesday throughout the Lenten season leading up to Easter. Every year, starting in January, the High School youth group would prepare for our ‘production’ of the final days of Christ, which we traveled throughout WI and IL to perform every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning for six weeks and culminating with three (always emotional) services on Good Friday
Over and over we literally acted out from the Lord’s Supper through His Crucifixion – the despair of such betrayal, the desperate pleading to ‘take this cup,’ the acceptance of God’s will and his sacrifice, the denial of His closest friends, and the degrading, brutal Crucifixion.
That experience probably played a major role in the development and depth of my faith. Not only was it incredibly fun for about 40 teenagers to spend such constant time, but it was profound to participate in something to powerful together. I loved being part of something that repeatedly brought Christ (and the magnificence of his sacrifice) to the forefront of my mind.
So, What is Lent?
Traditionally, the 40 day time-frame is a reflection on Jesus’ 40 Days of Temptation in the Desert/Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) – during which he fasted and overcame temptation. In the early church, the forty days leading up to Easter was a time when new converts would prepare for their baptism (and believers would reflect on their own conversion and recommit their faith). The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; however, Lent is most commonly associated with the act of giving something up (which is most closely attributed to a fast of some sort).
At home, my Mother silently modeled personal sacrifice. I don’t know how naturally it comes to her, but personal sacrifice is certainly something that life has demanded of her and of which, I am constantly in awe. During lent, she wouldn’t tell us, but often fast and has given something meaningful up each year for as long as I can remember. As the word says:
The point is not to self-denial for the sake of our own glory, but for God’s. Our indulgences are often something that provide us comfort, a sense of self-worth, or simply distract us from focusing on God. Rather, if every time we desire that food, thing, experience, we instead turn our attention to God, we can grow tremendously in faith. By praying, admitting our own weakness and imperfection and recognizing Jesus’ perfect love, we further prepare for and appreciate Christ’s Resurrection and look forward to a time He WILL come again!
Giving up is NOT (or shouldn’t be) a matter of accomplishing something, losing weight, pride, or shouting from the rooftops. It is taking time to observe, pray, repent, and possibly deny self in order to gain and give ourselves to Christ.
To Give Up or Add In?
Another way people recognize Lent is by Adding Something into their lives, rather than taking away. This quote articulates the distinction between these two beautifully,
Don’t focus on giving up something for the sake of giving something up…Instead, try to add something good to your life, and only give up what’s necessary to add that something good.” (source)
I still think giving something up is an awesome personal challenge for us to turn from idols and humble ourselves, but setting an additional goal of some faith related practice/discipline you’d like to work toward by using the extra time from giving up x,y, or z; might be additionally stimulating to faith.
If you’re interested in some suggestions for how to make this season intentional for your faith and family, I’ll also be sharing some Ideas & Resources for Observing Lent!
I’d love to hear from you: Do you observe Lent? Do you add, subtract, or both?
For a list of sites I link-up with, click here!