Giving up lint for Lent
Is it ok to get excited about Lent? I mean, it’s supposed to be a season of reflection and preparation, prayer and fasting, deep examination and repentance. Am I even allowed to smile? So why am I excited? I’m not giddy, jumping up and down excited, but I can feel somewhere in my brain or heart an excitement for this season. Not excitement over sin or any feeling like I will magically be cured of all of my sinful habits. But perhaps excitement for this concentrated time of discipline, or the fact that it is something the church participates in as a family, or the fact that it has been part of my life for so long now that having the same thing reoccur in my life every year is comforting. Maybe it comes from all of those places, maybe none, but I am ok with it.
Things that happen on a yearly basis do given an interesting perspective on things. The yearly perspective. Last year I came to Atlanta for the Ash Wednesday service at Trinity as a visitor. I was very encouraged. Earlier that day I sat at the Starbucks on Howell Mill (when my Psalm reading for the day just happened to be Psalm 51), with no idea that the next year I would be sitting there again, but this time as a citizen of the city, not just a visitor. How things have changed in just a year! It is exciting not to know what things will occur between this year and¬ the next Ash Wednesday.
Observing Lent is not biblically obligatory, but I believe, when observed earnestly, it is highly beneficial to us and glorifying to God. I don’t want to talk about it in detail, but I do have some thoughts. However, here is a great article I came across today that simply explains Lent historically, theologically, devotionally, and ecclesiastically: Why Bother with Lent? It is easy to read, provides a lot of clarity about the season, and a good read for anyone interested even a little bit.
Lent is a time of reflection and preparation. We reflect on our own lives and on the life of Christ. We prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. We prepare ourselves to continue to give ourselves wholly to Christ. We reflect on Christ’s suffering, on God’s sacrifice of himself and how He drew new to us. We prepare ourselves through sacrifice to see more clearly through the things that blind us from God’s grace.
It is a time of examination and repentance. We take the time to more closely examine our lives and the ways sin has crept in, or continues to maintain a stronghold and we seek to expel it as does our bodies when it vomits toxins. Sure we should do that throughout the year, but we can participate in Lent to concentrate our focus. Just like Ipecac helps us vomit more easily, Lent could help focus our hearts on expelling that which is poisonous to us.
It is a time of prayer and fasting. Lent is most popular for fasting or abstaining from something, but doing so is rather useless (and you probably won’t stick to it) if you are doing it because “that’s the thing to do during Lent.” If you aren’t seeking to glorify Jesus and draw closer to him through your fasting or abstinence, I’d say you might be missing the point. That’s not for me to judge on the one hand, but on the other, I don’t understand why one would do it for other reasons. That said, fasting something during Lent can be really hard. What’s harder is to use the time you save by fasting to pray or use the money you save to give to the church or the poor. But those practices are linked. Spiritually fasting may be beneficial to your heart and spirit, but coupled with the other practices, it’s like the Power Team of disciplines!¬ And prayer is definitely important during this season as well.
And all of this leads back to preparation. Experiencing a lean time before a time of feasting. Reflecting on the suffering of Christ before his glorious resurrection. Willingly walking through the desert in order that the oasis is much more meaningful. Of striping off of old clothes so that the new clothes can be more appreciated. Of participating in personal events (like the pain of fasting) that more saliently point us to the cross, and the complete provision from God for us, reminding us that he provides all for us, that His mercy is more than we need, and that we are blessed beyond what we can fathom.
What is a meaningful way that you observe Lent?