Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why Celebrating Lent is a Good Thing

In case you didn't know, today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent. 



I grew up in a rule-centered religion, where one gave something up for Lent, like candy or swearing or television because we were told to. It was expected. When I came to know Jesus in a personal way, I gave up giving things up. The rules were too much, and born-again Christians didn't seem to do that. I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I felt free to worship a God who doesn't condemn, but loves.

This year, however, I've been having second thoughts. I don't know if I ever truly understood Lent (despite all the rules being drilled into me!), so I did some research. 



I found some answers on the United Methodist Church's website, What is Lent and does it last forty days? (a trusted website). 

Is Lent biblical or just a tradition? I'm not sure, but I don't really care. I'm not here to split hairs, and I liked what I read.

For the sake of clarity, I'll use bold blue italic font for the material I quote directly from the website.

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday.

I never knew that it did not include Sundays! 

And the reason it doesn't is because each Sunday is supposed to be a sort of mini-Easter, 

and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

Well, I think that's pretty cool.

Why 40 days?

Because that's how long Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptations of Satan and preparing for His ministry. And if you recall (if you don't I'll remind you)--

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry (Matt 4:2).

I guess that explains why we're asked to fast or give up some sort of food, or something that's important to us--in order to relate to Jesus.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.

After all, isn't that why Jesus went into the desert? 

So all those years of giving up chocolate or swearing or television---it was done for all the wrong reasons. I HAD to do it, because that's just what we did---and maybe there was some piousness there too. Look at me and how wonderful I am that I am giving this up.

But I think I missed out on something all the years that I gave up giving up things.

You might think, as I did/do: 

I KNOW God loves me--unconditionally--so why do I need to do all that Lent stuff? 

Repentance, fasting, and preparation for Easter in the spirit of self-examination and reflection are privileges, not duties that I must perform in order to stay in God's good graces. When I changed my perspective, I discovered that my heart changed as well.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139: 23-24

Create in me a pure heart, O God
and renew a steadfast spirit within me...
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me
Psalm 51:10,12

Just as we prepare for the birth of our Savior during the weeks before Christmas, so must we prepare our hearts for the Resurrection of the same Savior who was born to die for us.

As we enter into this holy and somewhat somber season--with joyful Sundays in between--might I suggest that you join me in giving up myself for forty days? 

Let us give up our offensive ways in order to be led into the way everlasting. Let us give up our soiled hearts and ask Him to cleanse us and renew our spirits, to restore to us the joy of His salvation. Let us give up our wills and ask Him to grant us a willing spirit to sustain us in preparation for His glorious Resurrection.

And if chocolate, swearing, or television are a part of that, so be it.

Are you with me?

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare


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14 comments:

  1. I like how you said that fasting just because people said to really didn't do anything for you. But, when you really wanted to fast to prepare for Easter, it actually makes sense. You are so right! Loved this post!

    Sarah
    http://mybowsandclothes.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. Like everything else we do in our Christian walk, it has to come from the heart, or it's meaningless.

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  2. I was raised Baptist and didn't observe Lent, but have been influenced by the many bloggers of varying faiths who've embraced Lent for all the right reasons, Mary. I always appreciate it when another blogger gives me insight into this observance and you've given me some details that I didn't know--like the Sunday thing. Who knew? I do think it's a great exercise to remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Christ practiced not just in His death but in His life. In fact, my thought for the day from my Bible study time is "die to self" so this could be a great way to do that! Hmmm, who knows, dear friend, maybe I'll join you on this Lenten journey!

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    1. I thought the Sunday thing was pretty cool too. In all the years of my upbringing, we were never told that the Sundays in Lent were to be joyous. I don't think anyone knew that. Thanks for visiting, Beth.

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  3. I echo Beth's comments. You gave much appreciated clarification and some helpful advice. Keep 'em coming!

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    1. Thanks, Thea. We can thank the good old Methodist Church--their information was eye-opening!

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  4. Mare, I love your "what to give up" graphic!

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    1. Lyli, I got it from Google images...actualky I think it was Flickr. I can't take credit for it. Wish I could!

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  5. If the idea is from God, it is really good. :)
    We need to fast from the "worldly" things we need to focus on what our soul needs.

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  6. I too was raised in a legalistic denomination so I no longer give anything up. But I do try to quiet myself more and focus more on Him during Lent. And teach my children about the awesome message of the cross. Blessings!

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    1. Carrie, I think that whatever we do, however we decide to "celebrate" it is ultimately a heart thing, and as Lux said, if it's from God...it's a good thing. Thanks for visiting.

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  7. Giving up selfishness of any kind, or "give up myself" as you stated... That's a better idea than just giving up chocolate!

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    1. Esther Joy---I LOVE your name!!! And yes, much better--harder too!

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