What comes to your mind when you think of Lent? Perhaps you think of giving up eating meat on Fridays. Or the usual candy, sweets or ice cream that you give up every year. Maybe you are reminded of getting ashes on Ash Wednesday or even look forward to the Easter celebration with family at the end of the Lenten season.
For most people, these are normal things that they think of when preparing to enter the Lenten season. But why do we do these things during Lent? Are they just part of our yearly ritual? Or do they really make a difference?
Well, it depends. During Lent, we give up things in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. Whether we give up something that truly makes us remember his sacrifice is really only something that we ourselves can determine. Maybe giving up candy or sweets reminds you daily about what it means to sacrifice. But, would it be more sacrificial for you to give up other things in your life – things closer to your heart? What if you decided to change the manner in which you talk to a loved one? Or if you decided to reconcile with a person from whom you are estranged? What about working on that attitude of frustration, impatience or anger?
Or what if you gave up some of your time? The season of Lent is based on the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert right after he was baptized. We know that Jesus was tempted by the devil during this time. But it also seems likely that in the desert – a place of solitude and quiet – Jesus was communing with God in an intimate way as he prepared for his ministry. Lent is based on this time of solitude. Just as Christ went to the desert to prepare, the Lenten season is a period of preparation for us. Wouldn’t it seem appropriate then that we would take time out to be in solitude with God?
Changing attitudes or carving out time with God may not be the things we naturally think of when we begin to get close to Lent. But Lent gives us an opportunity to go beyond our normal rituals and to experience God in an even deeper way. In the desert, like Jesus, we come face to face with Him and with ourselves. It is often a difficult place to be. Jesus, after all, was tempted by the devil during His time in the desert. But God prepared him during that time of solitude to face and to deny those temptations. You see, when you seek God with all your heart, you will find him.
As we begin to prepare for this Lenten season, will you challenge yourself to go deeper with God? If you do, I can promise that you will be blessed.