I’m a big fan of Lent. I never practiced it or even knew what it was growing up. In college I started hearing about it and would jump on the no-sugar bandwagon for like ten days until a cake showed up in front of me. In grad school I actually learned the significance of it all and the beauty of the season. Usually we were supposed to take part in it for a class assignment (a millennial’s worst nightmare), which was actually where I started to grow in appreciation for it.
For anyone who might not know, Lent is the season in the Church calendar starting Ash Wednesday (this past Wednesday) and ending on Easter Sunday. It is a season of waiting, anticipation, quiet, and reflection. It is similar to Advent in that we know something beautiful is coming. It has an added depth to it because of the sorrow that had to come before the miracle.
While the practice of Lent isn’t biblically necessitated, it is a beautiful season of discipline and growth. It is the seed underground, waiting in darkness to suddenly blossom. It is an opportunity for us to slow, to surrender, and to trust.
I don’t honestly know if the 40 days has any connection to the 40 years the Israelites spent waiting for the Promised Land, but it would make sense. God calls us to trust and wait in the darkness, knowing that the Promise is coming. For them it was a new land, “filled with milk and honey.” For the disciples it was that Easter was coming, He was going to rise again. For us, it is a continual “forty” of knowing that He will come again for us someday. We live expectantly, knowing that He did rise and is risen and will be with us always. We wait for the day when we are united with Him fully in Heaven.
The practice of Lent is to surrender something for the forty days. It isn’t just to get rid of something bad and practice being a good person. We are supposed to give up something that is getting in the way of our relationship with the Lord, and give that time and space back to Him.
I love that Lent is just a continuation of what the Lord has already called me into this year – to create space for Him, and to clear out the clutter of the world. This calls for slow living, paying attention, solitude, and bravery. It calls for being present to the moments I am given, no matter what I am doing or who I am with. God has promised that He will be all we need, so giving up something that keeps us from fully believing that is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
I’ve moved from giving up social media or chocolate (bless you, brave people) to giving up things like fear and bitterness. I’ve realized that those have a real stronghold in my life.
The Lord has convicted me recently of my bitter and cynical attitude towards a lot of things and people. Honestly, mostly towards His Church and His People. Like 80% of church/worship services I attend, I have the world’s WORST attitude towards. I roll my eyes at the hipster doing announcements, the hipster leading worship, and the hipster giving the message (ok, maybe it’s a different problem). I judge the way they talk, the way they use Scripture, and the way the people around me worship.
The Lord’s conviction to me was this: There simply isn’t time, my dear, for bitterness and cynicism and listening to the lies of the enemy.
This life is short and there just isn’t time and space for those things. We cannot be dominated by cynicism, bitterness, anger, fear, or refusing forgiveness.
Instead, the Lord calls us into kindness, confidence, courage, and tender-heartedness. When I live slow enough to be who I am, this is the way I want to live. These are the characteristics I want to embody. When I rush and am self-focused, I suddenly become consumed by insecurity and anger.
This Lenten season, let’s walk slow – knowing in the darkness of Good Friday that the miracle is growing. The Resurrection is coming. We can be confident of this.
Let’s make room for the growth God is inviting us into. Your struggles may be completely different than mine. But the story is the same – surrender leads to closer intimacy with the Lord. As we enter this season, let’s be present to the work God wants to do in us. Let’s identify the strongholds that He is wanting to free us from.
The question is so much more than, “What are you giving up?” It is, as always, “What is the Lord inviting you into?” I’m praying that we will accept His invitation and enter into this season with our hearts open and ready to receive what He has for us.