Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of Lent. I don’t know much the history of Lent, and I’m not Catholic, but I look forward to the opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Easter.
I am grateful to live a life where I am allowed careful consideration of what I will take out or add in. My life is drenched in privilege and conveniences, anything I take out feels like merely a dent in my comfortable life. But Lent isn’t about doing the most extreme thing (and proclaiming it on your Facebook status). It’s a beautiful time to step back, examine your heart, regularly repent and fix your gaze on the cross. That is going to play out differently for people because we all have unique relationships with God. For some, it will mean omitting something from their lives, for others, maybe it’s adding something in. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to reflect Christ’s sacrifice through our actions or introduce a new discipline that will advance your relationship with Him.
This is what’s beautiful about the gospel: it comes to us as we are, exactly where we are. Comparing your spiritual life or heart issues with someone else is Not Gospel. It’s a distracting ploy by Satan to get you right where he wants you: indulging in yourself instead of submitting to God.
If you need to ditch tv in order to prepare your heart and engage in the Lent season, great. You are not less involved than someone who is fasting two meals a day and adding in a 90 minute mediation. If you think Christians exploit Lent a little, and get it more confused with belated New Year’s resolutions than the symbolic observance that it once was, you are not alone. But I think traveling down that road and pointing fingers at who is doing it wrong is also a distraction and not productive.
If you are looking for ways to engage in the observation of Lent this year, here are a couple resources I like:
-Redeemer Church, best known as Timothy Keller’s church, offers a day by day study you can find here.
-Richard Rohr has a great book with Scripture promptings for the Lent season. It’s $6 on Amazon for the Kindle edition. You can find it here.
You can’t go wrong by mediating on Scripture. If you haven’t thought about Lent and are scrambling to come up with some hyper-spiritual way to acknowledge it, don’t. Just commit to being present and engaged with him. That is a great place to start. Because that is Easter. Jesus came down to be Emmanuel, God with us, sacrifice absolutely everything, big and small and submit to God’s plans for him. He conquered death, suffering, judgement, shame, pride and all other sins that stood in our way to be with him. What an incredible thing to reflect on over the next 40 days. Let’s be present with him, whether that’s an offering of fasting, sacrifice or time.
“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning, I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.” Psalm 59:16-17