Many function under the assumption that Lent is just for Catholics. Even I once thought this. Now, I find that to be untrue. Lent is observed mainly by Catholics but there are others who do also including but not limited to Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Non-denominationals and even some Baptists. Ironically, I’ve also heard that some non believers observe Lent as well! Funny huh? What I do know is, Lent is a period of about 40 days leading up to Easter. A time to reflect on Renewal since Spring/Easter is that time of new life and new beginnings, you re making room for New Life. Much like a 40 day Spiritual “Spring Cleaning” session.
The whole “40 days” thing is symbolic:
Jesus’ 40 day wilderness experience,
40 days Moses was on Mount Sinai,
40 years of wandering in the desert and
40 days given to Ninevah city to repent.
This year, Ash Wednesday falls next week, February 10, 2016. For some, this will be used as a second chance for all the things one has gotten wrong with New Years Resolutions. Those that are constantly focused on “I have to be a better person, so I am more lovable/likable/worthy/etc.” (I’ve been there, no judgement!) For some, it will be an opportunity to snap out of a slump and focus on what it means to walk with Christ and for some, it’s the first time in their life they learn the deep history of what we celebrate every year. Lent is powerful if approached with an honest and sincere heart. No need to put on aires and pretend like you have it all together, because frankly NONE OF US DO! Lent is a journey through Grief, Repentance, Forgiveness, Fasting and Sacrifice. It can be a tool that leads to some of the most profound revelations we have ever received from God.
Grief – Grief is good! It’s cathartic. It’s human. It’s anything but weakness. Lent may be a good time to dig deep into your heart about things you have lost. It can be anything, from a job or dream to an actual person. Instead of continuing through another year carrying the weight and baggage of something lost, why not take this opportunity to put it right where healing and forgiveness begins, IN the wounds of Jesus. The very point of the story was that he took those wounds for US. Put it there and leave it there. Whatever it is that you’ve lost, even if it’s not a person, write it a letter. Put into words how you feel about it and what you miss about it. Name hurts and pain as a result of that loss and then when you are done, throw it away. Symbolic of moving on and releasing the grip on that weight.
Repentance – Say “I’m Sorry” and mean it. We all have “that thing” hanging in the back of the closet of our minds. Why not purge the closet so to speak? Some of us do this in our physical house, so why would we neglect the spiritual house? Be brave. You can do it!
Forgiveness – On the flip side of repentance, often we have someone we need to forgive as well. Holding on to something and refusing to forgive it only provokes bitterness and any bitterness you hold in your heart for that person hurts no one but yourself. Let it Go, leave it behind you. Give it to Jesus every single day if you have to, it can be hard and even seem impossible, but it will most certainly be worth it.
Fasting and Sacrifice – Fasting is tough. It it meant to be something personal. Whatever you indulge in that distracts you from Jesus in any way can be used as “the thing” you give up. In the past I have known people who give up Coffee, Meat, Electronics, Facebook, Coke, even Lights! It can be simple, or it can be drastic. If you have never “done” Lent before, don’t let that disqualify you. You can take on something as simple as a gratitude journal. Write something you are thankful and grateful for every day for 40 days. Whatever you choose, let it be sincere. This is between you and God. Even Religions that differ on the creation of the world or various morality issues often times agree that sacrifice is good for the human spirit. It stretches you somehow. Why? You get to operate out of something bigger that’s on the inside, while your overthinking mind can take a rest.
In John 10:10 Jesus told his disciples that he came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. This gives every one of us an opportunity to experience the life that God desires us to have when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is all because of Grace. Jesus, the giver of Grace. No matter how sin-ridden or shameful our past has been, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, he gives us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us, and guides us into a thriving and abundant life.
Ephesians 2:4-10 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Jesus = An Abundant, Thriving, and Victorious Life.
What can you do this week to prepare for Lent? I encourage you to come alongside many believers on this Journey leading up to Easter. I am excited about this year and what the Lord can do in this season of healing and stretching and transformation. I am looking forward to hearing what he has for me as I focus on removing what stands in the way of that abundant life he has promised. I crave a deeper relationship and am ready to embrace something new and fresh. Join me!
Have a wonderful day, may it be productive and full of Holy Spirit direction.
xoxo – Candace
P.S. There is also this 2 minute explanation that is for those of us who like the bullet points. 😊 Ash Wednesday and Lent in two minutes.