Easter is right around the corner, which means Easter bonnets & our Sunday best, deviled eggs, and of course a visit from a furry friend. For a lot of people, Easter also marks the day when they can start to consume meat every day of the week again – as Lent will be over. The Lenten season is an opportunity for us to connect with God, but for many, Lent is synonymous with the ritual of giving up fish on Fridays and the sentiment ends there. When it began, Lent was used to help new converts prepare for baptism, with repenting & fasting. Now most Christians see these six weeks as a time to prepare spiritually for Easter.
The word 'Lent' translated means 'spring' and although 'spring' means to burst forth, spread & grow, I fear that our culture has given Lent a completely different meaning. Although celebrated in many different ways, there are some basic principles to these 40 days I hope we start to understand...
1. Lent is not a Requirement
By this I mean that your heart should not be burdened by the idea that this is something "you are supposed to do”. If you are giving up something because your church or your family says you HAVE to and it is not truly a desire of your heart -- then you are missing the whole point. Jesus doesn't want you to HAVE to do anything for Him. He wants you to WANT to draw near to Him, to desire Him, to focus on Him. If you celebrate Lent & choose to sacrifice, know your reasons for doing so and do it with an open heart -- not a burdened one.
2. Complaining isn't Sacrificing
Just because you choose to give something up does not mean the world has to know about it. The key to the Lenten season is humility. During this time, your goal should be to come closer to God. It isn't to draw attention to yourself for the thing you choose to give up & desire praise for your efforts. A true sacrifice is quiet. It doesn't happen on Facebook or between your friends. It happens in the stillness of your heart. It happened on a cross.
3. Lying isn't Sacrificing Either
If you say you are giving up a specific food for Jesus, but are really doing it to help kick-start your bikini body -- that isn't sacrificing. That is lying to yourself & to God. And binging on whatever it is you plan to sacrifice the night before Lent begins & then again Easter morning -- isn't the point either. That is giving in to the desires of your flesh instead of honoring God with your choices. You cannot sacrifice expecting to earn favor or be noticed for your good works. Truly you must not expect anything worldly in return.
4. You Don't Have to Sacrifice at All
Sometime it isn't giving up something that should be your focus. Maybe, God wants you to add something to your life instead. The goal of your Lenten season should be to grow spiritually. So, if for you that means adding a devotional time & sticking to it, or praying for a set amount of time every day -- then do that instead. Giving up something is only needed, so you can add God back into your schedule in return.
Lent is a time to humbly come before God, focusing on his Presence, and be thankful and awed by his overwhelming forgiveness. It gives you the opportunity to sacrifice or put aside anything you hold as an idol over God. What is it that controls you? For some that is food. For others maybe the media & TV consume your time instead of worship. Maybe a sacrifice for you is to keep work at work & spend time with your family. Whatever it is -- lay it down before Him -- and take that time to meditate in God's word. Take that time and listen to His voice in your life. Take that time to honor His sacrifice for us & worship Him for all He has given you.
The purpose of Lent is to grow in God's grace. It is a time to lay down your life for the One who first showed us what it meant to sacrifice. With or without the fish.