Understanding Lent


I’ve known of this season on the Christian calendar since high school. My BFF was Catholic—she still is, in fact. When we were growing up, she tried to explain holy days and such to me as her family recognized them. I found their practices interesting but didn’t understand they could have meaning for me.

DSC01152eOne year, my friend decided to give something up for Lent. I decided to join her. Being the teenage girls we were, sugar seemed like the thing to surrender—if you’re going to give something up, you may as well lose a few pounds while you’re at it, too.

Ah. Motives. I don’t really think either of us had a clue why we were giving something up for Lent. We just knew it was something she was supposed to do. And we were completely faithful—right up until midnight on Easter Eve when we didn’t have to wait another second and gorged ourselves on Easter candy.

I can’t honestly say it was a religious experience. But I think we thought it was just the same.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve been striving for a better understanding of the true significance of these days. Practicing Lent is a Christian tradition. It’s a useful practice for worship, but not found in the Bible nor essential for faith. I’ve come to appreciate the practice, though, intended to prepare our hearts for Easter’s celebration in a more meaningful way.

In case you are unfamiliar with Lent, I’ll summarize: it starts on Ash Wednesday (today) and lasts for 40 days plus six Sundays. (These are days of rest. You get them off!) Ash Wednesday is an intent look with grief at what humanity lost in the Fall. God told Adam, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19b). We mourn with ashes as we consider the dust we deserve to someday be.

But Lent ends on Easter with a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Thanks to Jesus, we look forward to eternal life instead of dreading a destiny as dirt! Lent is a time to consider how Christ gets us from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from death to life, from fallen to someday glorified! We meditate on what He’s done for us while reflecting on what He’s doing in us—and how the two actions are a lot alike. Jesus died for our sins, so that we can die to sin and live forever with Him.

Thank You, Jesus, for life. Amen.