I’d never given Lent much thought. For some reason, I know not why, I’d thought it an outdated practice that Catholics observed. Typically, it appeared to be reduced to “what are you giving up for Lent?” In my overly judgemental moments I found it strange that apparently non-pious people chose to participate in such a “custom”.
Three years ago the Lord nudged me to consider it and with the Lenten season upon us once again, starting next Wednesday 10 February, I’ll be observing it again.
What is Lent?
Lent derives its structure and themes from Christ’s forty days’ in the wilderness, where He fasted and prayed and faced Satan’s temptations. As most of us know this period occurred before His public ministry began. It’s typically six weeks in duration (some denominations calculate it differently) and ends with Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
I particularly love Ann Voskamp’s description in a post that I read a few years ago. Ann’s chatting to her brother on the phone answering his question:
“Okay … Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”
So it’s the letting go of our stuff, whatever that may be, so we’ll be even more desperate for Jesus to fill us.
“’And yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart …’” (Joel 2:12)
“The purpose of Lent is not to force on us a few formal obligations, but to ‘soften’ our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, to experience the hidden ‘ thirst and hunger’ for communion with God.”1
This is my desire: to experience that communion with God.
For the past three years I’ve joined Margaret Feinberg’s global readership on a new Bible adventure. The first one we read the entire Bible in 40 days. Wow, what an experience that was. This year we’re reading through the Books of Luke and Acts which in comparison should be a piece of cake. These are two books I love. Most biblical scholars believe they were both written by Luke and are good to read one after the other.
If it’s something that may appeal to you follow this link to Margaret’s website where you can grab a copy of the reading plan. Margaret is a mighty fine teacher of the Bible and she shares many of her insights along the way.
“So what are you giving up for Lent?”
As I mentioned at the outset often it’s this question that dominates discussions around the season of Lent. Yes, if the season involves “spring cleaning of the soul” then letting go of our junk makes sense.
As we know fasting is an important aspect of our walks allowing us to let go of our dependence on certain things (food, TV shows, internet, etc) so we can filled by the Lord whilst relying on Him.
I’m still seeking the Lord on what to fast but will report back. But I don't want to just give up confectionary. I want something more; to walk through these six weeks with more of Him, more of His presence, to experience a little of that "knowing" I mentioned last time.
“He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30).
John the Baptist spoke those words acknowledging that it was time for people to focus on Jesus who was now living and teaching amongst them. It’s a great verse to take with us into Lent. Letting go of ourselves to allow room for more of Jesus.
I’ll be posting each week over the next few weeks reflecting on my Lenten journey. I hope you’ll join me.
But tell me, do you have any plans for Lent?
Notes: 1. Great Lent, Alexander Schmemann, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974. Page 31.