We are right in the middle of the season of Lent. It’s a very rich and valuable time for me, but it wasn’t always that way.
I was in college the first time I heard of the season of Lent. One day I saw all these people running around with black marks on their forehead and I thought, “Wow, why have so many people been out playing in dirt today? And why do they have it in the same place on their foreheads?” Then I was told that it was ash and that the marks were for Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Initially, I was told that Lent was the observance of the 40 days before Easter when many people fast from good food and are generally sad until Easter, when it was okay to be happy again.
Suffice it to say, the Season of Lent was not explained to me very well at the outset.
What I came to understand, however, was that the Season of Lent was not simply about being sad for 40 days and depriving yourself of cake and Facebook. Lent is a wonderful season to find a way to be a bit more intentional in reflecting on who God is with extra time to concentrate on Jesus’ great sacrifice and sweeping love.
Lent looks different for different folks, and that is okay. Some people really concentrate on fasting, abstaining from food or something else in order to focus on God. Some focus on taking more time to pray and do devotions. Some are intentional about serving others more or speaking truth more. There are lots of ways to practice intentionality in Lent – if you haven’t yet, pray about what your way will be.
What I have found is that when we are intentional about creating space for a little bit of extra focus on Jesus, his sacrifice for us, and his love for us it opens up opportunities for Him to show us a more of himself and can speak to us in new and fresh ways.
When churches emphasize a focus on Lent, it has a way of grafting the body together into an intentional focus on Jesus. It can be a rich time for the body to come together. It also is meant to build momentum toward Easter. The church leadership must lead on this. It looks like having an Ash Wednesday service, services and worship focused on Jesus’ sacrifice, having a Maundy Thursday and/or a Good Friday service. All of this points to Easter – the pinnacle of the Christian calendar.
There are also great Lenten devotionals out there. Some suggestions are A Way Other than our Own, Pauses for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days, and Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C.S. Lewis
Or, my church puts together a devotional written my our parishioners. It’s a great way to involve our folks in the season and hear their heart for Jesus.
I simply suggest that you find some way to use this season in the church calendar to be just a bit more intentional about deepening your relationship with Jesus who was crucified for us and on the third day rose again.
However you choose to practice Lent this year, may it be richly blessed by our Father in heaven and may you grow ever closer and more in love with Jesus who longs to draw you ever closer to Himself.