It took seeing Vice-President, Joe Biden, on MSNBC donning ashes on his forehead to remind me that today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Over the past five years, I have formed a deep appreciation regarding Lent. As a boy, I was tacitly taught that it was some strange “Catholic” practice, and as such should be rejected on that basis and that basis alone. Fortunately, some good people showed me the deep benefits of engaging these deep and highly spiritual practices. I know that some of you — especially those with my American Restoration Movement tribe heritage — are somewhat skeptical about Lent, but you needn’t be.
Here’s what Lent is all about: Lent is a forty-day liturgical period of fasting and prayer before Easter. (I think we can all agree that fasting and prayer are Biblical. And 40 days is certainly Biblical!) The forty days represent the forty-days Jesus spent in the desert where he was tempted and tested by Satan. Not only does Lent engage us in some sense of Jesus’ fast, it also prepares us for Holy Week and Easter, as we encounter sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed. In addition, Lent is designed to teach us that we are dependent on God and God alone to provide for us. Though some practice differently, Sunday’s during Lent are not generally considered as part of the 40 day fast.
In previous years I’ve given up red meat, caffeine and a host of other things for Lent. Each has been difficult, but each has been as blessing. I find this season of the liturgical year both inspiring and challenging. In Lent, I’m reminded about how desperately we need to experience sacrifice. Sacrifice is a terribly important way to imitate Jesus. Indeed, without sacrificing we can never truly imitate Jesus. And for those who question the legitimacy of Lent allow me to tell you about a wife who was horrible deceived by her husband about the family’s personal finances a few years ago. This came as part of several instances of disruption and heartache. Fortunately for him, his house of lies came crashing down just before Lent. In response his wife gave up thoughts of divorcing him as her sacrifice for Lent. You guessed it. The marriage recovered and she remained with him, working through pain and forgiveness and saving their family.
Trust me, this season can reshape, reform, and renovate our lives. So I encourage you to engage Lent this season. Some of us need to start slow, others need to dive in deep, but I encourage you to sacrifice as our Saviour sacrificed and use the next 40 days to share in the lifestyle of Jesus.