I know it’s hard to believe but Lent begins next Wednesday (2/14). Growing up, I believed Lent was just a time to give up something you needed to break the habit of doing anyways, i.e. giving up chocolate or drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. I never really understood the spiritual significance of fasting from something during Lent. As I matured in my Christian faith, I spent time in traditions that didn’t celebrate the church calendar or encouraged Lenten practices. It was pretty much let’s celebrate Jesus’ birth and then poof it was Good Friday and Easter. There was very little in the way of preparation for what I would conclude is the most important season in the life of the Christian Church.
About 2 years ago, I decided to learn more about Lent and why its one of the oldest traditions in Christianity. I can honestly say, I look forward to this time on the liturgical calendar almost as much, if not more than Advent.
The Latin word for Lent, quadragesima, literally means fortieth. Traditionally, Lent has been a 40 day (Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday) time period of fasting, penitence and prayer. Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of Lent isn’t just to give something up in order to lose weight or to prove one can or to practice some sort of extreme self-denial so as to beat one’s body and spirit into submission. Actually, the purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer to celebrate the most significant event in the Christian faith, Jesus’ resurrection. Lent is meant to be a time of self-denial for the purpose of making more space for practicing certain spiritual disciplines (prayer, devotional readings, etc.) with more urgency and purpose. If we choose to fast from something, the hope during Lent is that we will replace that something with more prayer and scripture/spiritual readings in order to draw us nearer to God as we prepare for Holy Week.
What one gives up in order to devote themselves more to God during Lent is an extremely personal decision. For me, I ask myself, what is it that distracts me the most and takes up the most of my discretionary time? For me, that’s social media. Unfortunately, when I have a free moment or some spare time, I immediately turn to my phone to scroll through social media. Once again, for Lent this year, I plan to give up social media with the hopes that I will, in those moments of downtime, turn to God in prayer and contemplation or that I will do more meditative reading of scripture and books that point me to the person of Jesus.
I tell you my plan in hopes that it will encourage you to also pray about what you could give up in order to spend more time this Lent drawing closer to God so that your soul and spirit could be fully prepared for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. (Oh, and sorry parents, I don’t think giving up taking care of our children for 40 days is a legal fasting practice, but I feel your pain; I know with young children around it’s hard to devote a ton of downtime to spiritual practices. 🙂
This Lent, I plan to take social media off my phone. Unfortunately, I can’t completely fast from social media because I have a blog series to write and a podcast to launch. But, I know me and I know that most of my downtime is devoted to my phone so fasting from social media on it will go a long way in creating less distraction so that I can pray and read more. Along with working through this idea of contemplative prayer, I also plan to add more meditative scripture reading to my devotions. Out of that time, hopefully, will come my weekly devotional writings here on my blog as I read through and mediate on 1 John. I also plan to read Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright so I can spend Lent really focusing on the person and work of Jesus.
My prayer is that when Easter gets here, I won’t be caught unprepared to enter the most Holy Week on the Christian calendar and that I would be able to truly rejoice in celebrating the resurrection because I’ve prepared my heart to receive the genuine truths of the season.
I pray the same for you, dear friends.