(button courtesy of liturgy.co.nz)
A week or so ago I was asked to do a presentation on Lent next Tuesday for the Bible study I used to participate in at Lake Murray and just haven't had time for lately. Lent is a precious, precious time of the year for me, one I look forward to because God makes Himself more present to me as I set aside extra time with Him through the 40 days preceding Easter.
I will be spending the next few days doing more research on the origin, history, and practice of Lent. My favorite resource thus far has been Martha Zimmerman's Celebrating the Christian Year, a wonderful resource especially for families with young children. Not only does it contain history, but Zimmerman, the wife of a Presbyterian pastor, also includes recipes and crafts for each of the holy days of the Christian Year, from Advent (the beginning of the church year) to Thanksgiving.
For me, Lent had been a time for spiritual spring cleaning, an opportunity to seek out the Lord and clear the detritus that has accumulated in my life over the past year and restore my relationship with Him and with others. Yes, we should always keep our relationship with Him our first priority and we should always seek Him every day of the year, not just Lent. But life and its incumbent busy-ness can come between us and our Saviour, and somehow spiderwebs build up in the dark recesses of our soul and need to be swept clean, removed from ourselves. And through seeking His direction through extended prayer and time in His Word, He reveals those musty corners and hands us the broom and mop to get the job done.
Some in the evangelical realm would (and have) accused Lent of being about "penance" rather than "repentance." But they have it wrong, at least in the way that I have always practiced Lent. Lent is about repentance, a turning away from sin and a turning toward Christ. Very much so. As Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness before starting His earthly ministry, we spend these 40 days in fasting and preparation to celebrate the miracle and the power of Christ's resurrection.
Some also say that as the Bible doesn't command us to celebrate Lent, we shouldn't then celebrate it. But the vast majority of evangelicals obviously celebrate Christmas and Easter. No one should be forced to observe Lent, nor should those who celebrate Lent see themselves as more "godly" than others, just as those who celebrate Christmas and Easter (or who refuse to celebrate these holy days) should see themselves as more "godly" than other Christians. After all, Christians are commanded to "see others as better than themselves" in Scripture.
In addition, some evangelicals state that Lent makes our spiritual lives about ourselves -- what *I* give up, what *I* do, what *I* say. But again, this idea is a misguided view of Lent. The people I know who observe Lent spend extended time in prayer seeking God's guidance in keeping a holy Lent in His strength and not our own. What shall we fast from, Lord? What shall we read or study? How shall we pray and with whom? What do we need to confess? Whom do we need to seek for reconciliation of relationships? A proper Lent is about our personal relationship with God and with others, which, asfter all, is His will for us. It's not all about "me"; it's about learning to live more fully in and for Him.
So I shall continue my study and practice of Lent. I know what I shall fast from -- something I am not mentioning in public in order to follow the Scriptural mandate about fasting in keeping it between God and me and my immediate family for accountability. As far as my study and my other additions to my Lenten Rule, I am still seeking Him.
Wishing you all a Holy Lent,