Having grown up Catholic, I am quite familiar with what it means to observe Lent. Though I confess that in recent years I have not observed it. Not because I am a Baptist pastor, but more likely because I simply haven’t wanted to bother. I confess that I am not an exemplar with respect to spiritual or even more general personal discipline.
It’s a struggle.
So while I am familiar with what Lent means, I’ve never really taken it that seriously. At least not beyond the occasional giving up or fasting from something. Things like junkfood or sweets. You know, the usual culprits.
This year both my wife and I have decided to be intentional about entering the Lenten season. For my part, I am giving up TV: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube, and DVDs. While it may not be for you, for me it’s a thing.
But that’s not enough. I have to do something in place of watching TV. That is, when I would normally be inclined to watch a show, instead my intention is to pray and/or read. When I say read, I mean the Bible (of course) but not only the Bible. I have shelves full of wonderful theological and spiritual books. I even have some devotional books that include reflections on Lent itself. I may even indulge in some fiction.
When we think of fasting, we most often think of food. But we can fast from any number of things. Think about social media. Think about getting off Facebook for Lent. Consider a fast from complaining. When you’re tempted to gripe about something, ask God for help to be thankful instead.
The reason for fasting is to refrain from something you want and would normally allow yourself to have. Or to fast from something that adds little value to your life and only wastes time; and then to replace it with an activity that reminds you of your dependence on God.
Sometimes growing closer to God requires holy subtraction. Such holy subtraction may give us time and opportunity for more life-giving things.
Or perhaps you need some holy addition. That is, prayer, Scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines have little to no place in your life. Maybe Lent is the time to take the time to begin your day with The Lord’s Prayer and to ask God for help to see him at work throughout your day.
Lent is the season in the church calendar that leads up to Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection (Easter) Sunday. Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. It begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. It’s an invitation to mark our time and routine differently, to allow God’s word and our relationship with him to determine our daily rhythm.
One piece of advice I would give, especially if Lent is entirely new to you, is this: keep it simple. Pick one small thing. Remember the purpose is to allow that one thing to draw you to God, to remind you of Jesus.
I could say more, but for now I won’t. Besides, I have forty more days.