To be fair, I’ve grown up with a faith tradition that did not celebrate or even really talk about Lent (okay, maybe sometimes I even heard people make fun of Lent observations). This always bothered me (the making fun part) because, while there were many who didn’t take Lent seriously, it did seem like an important observance for many others. Maybe it was even a spiritual growth tool for some. I am all for that. Now, I am not writing for or against the observance of Lent in any way in this post, I simply want to share a few thoughts that have come to my mind as I’ve learned more and more about Lent. No matter where you stand on this observance, I hope you can appreciate some of the thoughts behind Lent. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Lent is a reminder of the frailty of life – and that reminder is healthy. The Bible is filled with reminders of how short and frail our lives really are.Psalm 103 for example reminds of this:15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him
This passage reminds us of the fact that we don’t have a clue how long our lives will be and we should make sure that we are ready for the end of life. This is one of the major positives of Lenten observations. Often a minister leading Lenten services will place the ash on the forehead of those in attendance and say: “Remember, we come from dust and to dust we will return”. Now, this can sound very dark and scary, but from my perspective, it is a great reminder of two things: 1) we are not God and we can’t control this life – even it’s length; 2) We need help for life after death. Don’t miss verse 17 in Psalm 103 – it reminds us that God’s love is with those who turn to Him, and it is everlasting -unlike us!
- Lent can be a reminder of the need for repentance – but be careful of the emphasis. When you celebrate Lent, there is a reminder of how much we need to repent of our rebellion against God and turn to Him. With many Lent observances we are urged to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and this is a very helpful exercise, however, check your motivations. Are you repenting to earn something from God or are you repenting because you truly believe that the life of a Christ-follower is to be one of worship – meaning that we turn away from sin, not as a means of earning, but as a means of praising our Savior. Check your motivations.
- Lent can remind us of HOPE! Remember the Words: “Your will return to dust”? These words are a reminder that you and I will die. Without Christ, these words are very dark and scary, in fact, without Christ, these words are hard. But, listen to the words given to us concerning Christ from Hebrews 10:14 – For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. What a huge reminder of the hope that we have in Christ – He has made us perfect forever!
- Warnings: there are two warnings that I would share with you if you are involved in thinking through and participating in Lent observances – either at home or at an organized event.
- First – remember that you cannot ever earn anything from God. He is a gracious God and He has provided for our forgiveness and for our lives out of his grace. Any observances that stirs you to believe and practice based on personal merit will not lead you toward the one true God, but instead towards a personal righteousness and that is anti-Christ.
- Second – if you do decide to participate in Lent, keep in mind Christ’s teachings concerning fasting. Here is what he says in Matthew 6 –
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In other words, guard yourself against the temptation to share with the world what you are giving up during Lent, and let your observance be truly something that you sacrifice in order to hear the voice of God more clearly and spend more time, talent and treasure on serving Him and others.