Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.
Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:
“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”
I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not required for salvation and it is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God or to add something to my life that should have been doing already.
A friend linked to this graphic yesterday and I think that it gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent:
This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.
“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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV
This year, I prayed about what God would have me do (or not do) during the Lent season. The church that I attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so I will not have ashes on my forehead today. I found my Ashes to Fire Lent devotional book that I received from my church in 2011 and I plan read through the daily reflections. I also am starting:
|The Love Dare for Parents
By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick / B&H Books
…a 40-day challenge to daily demonstrate love to my children. My prayer is that during this time I will purposely be focused on Christ and with His help also purposely make time to show my love to my girls. My daily prayer is for the Lord to give me patience and wisdom and help me to be slow to anger.
Do you observe Lent? Why or Why Not?