Season of Lent
We are well into the season of Lent - the time for reflection of the work of the cross that extends from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Growing up, my congregation didn't celebrate Lent. This is neither bad or good- but I am glad that later in my life I have been a part of two churches which observe this season. Personally, it provides focus and intentionality during the Easter season in the same way Advent does for Christmas.
Traditionally, fasting for forty days during this season means taking away something that will be a challenge for you personally, in order to discipline our hearts, bodies and minds as a reflection of Christ's 40 days spent in the desert prior to the start of his public ministry. However, I'm someone who has martyr tendencies and taking away things is like a walk in the park. I've fasted from alcohol, foods, and other "distractions" over the course of the last decade. A few years back, I attempted to add something rather than take away something- I ran and prayed for the 40 days (I actually didn't get the memo on the six "Lord's Day" Sundays- so I ended up running 46 days straight). This took a lot of discipline on my part to carve out intentional time to pray while running a minimum of two miles. A wonderful outcome of this time was that after Easter, my faith grew in ways I wasn't expecting. After Easter, I ended my intentional prayer/running time and my prayer life was left by the wayside. What followed was a time of doubt in my faith, unlike I have ever experienced. I no longer felt the Lord's presence- I couldn't feel Him, hear Him and I had serious doubts about Christianity. Now, working in ministry as a worship leader and on the LUTC team, this kind of doubt provides a serious occupational hazard. I remember about a month or so of time passing when I was in the deepest part of the "desert" in my faith. I went on a run and prayed, "Lord, where are you? Are you even real? Why won't you answer me?" To my surprise, I was answered through a small voice, "How do you think I can talk to you if you're not talking to me? You prayed every day for 46 days, and then you just stopped- because Lent was over". Game changer. My faith at that point stretched in ways I didn't know it could stretch and I personally understood my deep need for Him: just like I need food, water and oxygen to survive- I need to be in constant contact with the Lord through prayer and reading scripture. The disciplines that I exercised during Lent helped shape my faith in ways I could not have foreseen.
We hope your time during Lent is challenging, sweet, and transformative as we press on toward the hope of Easter. If you've not engaged in Lent, you can at any time...there's no rule against jumping in mid-stream. One resource that has been very helpful and inspiring has been the Lent devotionals provided from Redeemer in New York.
If you'd like to share your Lent tradition or experiences- please do!
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.