I remember the first time I ever heard of the season of Lent. I was a Sr. in high school and had been going to church for just a few months. Less than a month before, I think, was when I accepted Christ, so much of what I was learning was new to me.
I wasn’t really aware of lent until it was over that year. My pastor had talked about giving up soda during lent, which really didn’t mean anything to me because I didn’t know what Lent was. On Easter Sunday he brought a can of Coke with him and drank it at some point during the service. For a few years after that I knew Lent as a time to give up something we liked because Easter was coming.
As my understanding of Lent grew, I eventually began to associate it with the Passion, crucifixion and resurrection. However, for me it was still mostly a time of self-sacrifice. I mean self-sacrifice in the most selfish sense, too. My friends and I would compete to see who could go the longest without soda, or internet time, or something else that was deemed an appropriately difficult sacrifice. For a couple of years I was giving up food and water from 9:00am to sundown. One year I gave up meat (my wife wasn’t a big fan of that!)
If I wasn’t using Lent for bragging rights, I was using it to lose weight. I was giving up pop mostly because I knew it wasn’t good for me and I could stand to lose a few pounds. How’s that for really getting into the spirit??
Around this time last year my friend Jeff Goins (a great writer you can check out here) posted something that challenged me and my selfish attitude toward lent. I honestly don’t remember the content, if he wrote it himself or if it was something he linked to. What clearly remains with me, even now, is the Spirit’s conviction I felt about making lent into something selfish.
This year I’ve approached lent in a much different manner. As I thought about what to give up I really examined my motives and often found them lacking. In the end my conclusion was that I didn’t give anything up. Instead I have committed myself to learning more about Lent and what it really is about. There is also a communal fitness push in my ministry, but that is mostly me taking advantage of the timing of the season.
I’ll blog more about this later, but even in just this last week as I’ve been trying to prepare my heart for the season I’ve been blown away by how my understanding has changed. There was nothing specifically “wrong” with my current (as of last week) view of Lent. It was just…incomplete. There is an amazing component of redemption and grace I have been, at best, dimly aware of.
For all six of my readers, I want to encourage you to take some time this season and really explore the historical, theological and transformative depth of Lent.