Warning – Ash Wed is March 9th. I used to cringe at the thought of Lent. As a child I recall attending weekly Wednesday night services in which the priest with deep sonorous tones prayed (in the Litany) about Jesus’ “agony and bloody sweat…” making it all too real for me. Lent was a time of fear, solemnity and minor deprivation. You had to give stuff up!
How well I recall the drill of being asked by grandparents, and Sunday school teacher “What are you giving up for Lent?” It was just what you did. And not having much of a sense of purpose it became a game of trying to find something that sounded sacrificial that really wasn’t. Giving up Snickers bars, rather than chocolate means you COULD have Milky Way or Three Musketeers. One year I tried to give up licorice until my mother remembered I didn’t like licorice so back to the drawing board on that one.
It wasn’t until I was in high school and my family changed churches that I got a different sense of Lent. Here we were encouraged to do something for Lent rather than not do something. We were encouraged to attend the Wednesday 7 am service or the evening service; to read a book on the life of Christ or on St Paul; to attend the Sunday School class every week of Lent. That, to me, made a difference.
Rather than spending time trying to avoid something I wanted – making it even more desirable for those 6 weeks – I was doing something, adding something to my life that at the end of Lent could lead to a positive growth in my life in Christ.
I have not looked back. Lent is not a time for false piety, groveling and finding the least offensive thing to be deprived of. Now Lent is a time in which I can find the way for me to grow in my walk with God.
Six weeks I am told is long enough for us to make something a habit. So choose wisely and decide what is is you want to take on for Lent. It will make a difference.