I grew up in churches but not in ones that emphasized Lent. I really don’t remember hearing it taught until maybe sometime in law school. Even for years after that it never really impacted me (maybe because there was no Facebook with everyone posting about what they were giving up!). I’d grown up with Good Friday and Easter Sunday but not paying that much attention to the 40 days before.
Recently, I’ve paid more attention. But never more than this year. You see, I’m up early this morning writing this post and spending time praying over what these next 40 days would reveal. I’m a big fan of those Biblical 40 day periods. I’ve even written a 40 day marriage preparatory devotional that might see the light of day one of these days. I love how God uses that time period to transform. To grow. To commission.
The 40 day period that comes to mind during this start of the 40 day Lenten season is the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before He began His ministry. You can read about it in Matthew 4, but we see that it is a hard season filled not only with prayer and fasting but also with some pretty hard tests, tests maybe some of us can even relate to (tests of pride, tests of physical will power, tests of even proving yourself).
I read this yesterday on a blog I don’t even know how I found, and it struck a nerve, “Friends, Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue: we are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way. The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from our dead-end devices. We turn away from the false, and we turn to the True. We turn our face, attention, interest, energy, and all our will towards the face of God. Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our heart, sears our conscience, and darkens our mind. Our eyes and words turn haughty. We compare and despair and bemoan. We are easily offended, greedy for affirmation and self-justification. We seek our will be to done, grumbling and blaming when it isn’t. Sin hides God’s true image from the world that he loves. We desperately need a time of focused heart examination because sin – whose property is always to destroy and separate – will steadily suck our spirits dry to the bone. The point of Lent, then, is not to give up chocolate or Cabernet or chips, but to give up sin!”
That’s a tall order. But one I decided to place.
Rarely are we offered a season where we are given the opportunity to clean out our souls like we spring clean our houses. We have been given 40 days to look at all the clutter and all the things that so easily entangle us and keep us from running the race that He has set out for us (Hebrews 12).
During a season where the church universal mourns the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians, we should also mourn how we, in a nation that affords us every freedom, have become lukewarm and unaffected by our faith. There’s nothing worse (Rev. 3:16). We’re unaffected and unmoved and that should become unacceptable during this season of searching our souls.
I am giving some things up starting today. I’m also beginning some new things. I pray for the discipline to continue through this season faithful to my commitments.
Kristin Schell wrote a beautiful post on Lent and what it is and offers up some great resources to if you want to dig deeper this season.