I both dread and eagerly look forward to observing Lent each year. When I bring up my Lent struggle to give up anger (more on that when Lent is over) I continue to get an interesting response. “I thought Lent was for Catholics.” While our Catholic brothers and sisters have an advantage since they have the support of their church community fasting with them, the idea of giving something up to suffer with our Lord, that is to identify with His suffering on our behalf, is for the whole Christian church. Though Lent specifically is not commanded in the Bible, faithful men and women of the Bible, like Daniel, Ezra, Moses, Anna, and Jesus Himself, observed times of fasting and self reflection that the Lord honored. This is precisely what Lent is. It’s time set aside each year to follow their example.
Let’s say what Lent is not, right up front. Lent is not depriving ourselves in order to somehow attain godliness, perfection, or salvation. Salvation comes through grace alone. That means we cannot do anything to make us more loveable to God. His love is perfect and He offers it to us when none of us deserve it. What Lent does represent is a time of preparation, of contemplation, of taking a deep look at ourselves, to see in ourselves what God sees, both the beautiful image of our creator and the ugly distortion of sin.
I can tell you what a different Lent has made in my celebration of Resurrection Day. I am not a fan of the pagan origins of the word Easter, so I prefer to call the momentous day what it is, a celebration of conquering sin and death. And by conquering death I am referring especially to the fear of death. It is no longer something we have to be afraid of. In Christ we will rise with Him someday to an amazing perfection. I have celebrated many good Easters with chocolate bunnies and colored egg hunts. But the meaningful ones have been those since I began to prepare my heart with a 40 day fast of whatever seems to be an idol to me that year. With 24 hour fasts in between, with searching my heart, praying for God to reveal my sin to me, and to repent of whatever He brings to the front of my mind and life. It has been food, it has been pride, now it is anger.
That is my call for you this week, a call to repentance. Lent is the time to forgive those who have wounded us – especially those who it seems will never ask for forgiveness. Lent is the time to let go of those sins we have secretly treasured. Lent is the time to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness. We can think of a hundred good reasons not to, reasons that justify our bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, or hatred. But Lent is the time we are called to give it up – the habit that has become a vice, the over-indulgence, the lie we tell ourselves, the pride, the outbursts, the habit of yelling, lying, crudeness, or gossip. You know what you have deemed okay, measuring yourself against others, thinking you are not as bad as they are. You know the stuff you carry around that God is gently nudging you to let go. You don’t need all 40 days of Lent, but you do need to repent today. I am praying for you, dear friends. Don’t carry the burden any more. Lay it down.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 ESV
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