To be frank I think the first time I even heard of Lent was in the late 1990’s. One of my students had a mainline denominational background and told me that he was going to fast (I don’t remember what he gave up) for the entire month leading up to Easter. I don’t remember what I said to him. Please forgive me Vic if I was anything less than supportive. I was ignorant.
After that exchange I thought about Lent exactly zero more times before 2005. Last year I began to explore some of the historical roots and significance of the practice. So why did I and how have I decided to participate?
I should be clear that the formally-named practice of Lent is a manmade creation. There is no Scriptural imperative to do Lent. Nor is there any special dispensation of grace given for participating… I know that last statement may be debated. But neither of the above mentioned realities means that there cannot be significance to the spiritual disciplines found in Lent… and it is that certainty that helped me decide to involve myself.
The answer to the question of “How will I participate?” was equally important to me – maybe even primarily important. Not just “What would I give up?… but a bit more of the “Why was I doing this again?” question. I understood that I was not doing this to score points (with God or with others down here). This was not some sort of religious weight loss system (though God knows I could stand to lose a few pounds). This was not a test of my will to see if I could give up something important for an entire month. This was not to be some sort of badge I could wear to have one-upped the majority of my Protestant friends. This had to be about God. This had to be a reflection on the sacrifice of Christ given on my behalf.
So I engage. I will not here even mention what I am giving up for lent because that is really not the point. The point is that I am sacrificing something important to me so that I can reflect on the sacrifice of God in giving His Son for me.
Early Ash Wednesday morning I found myself worshipping in a very new way. Not because of the building that I was in, but because of a renewed realization of the sacrifice of Christ on my behalf. Most of the time I am VERY grateful that at an early age I invited Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Occasionally I will have a few regrets about the timing, but not for the typical reasons… not so I may have a better-sounding testimony. I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke when He says that… he who is forgiven little, loves little. I think sometimes because I came to Jesus so young that I felt (though mistakenly) that I had only been forgiven little. Ugly! The only reality is that I need to understand more deeply that the price for my sin was the same as that of the career blasphemer. Then I will begin to understand that I have been forgiven much.