Today I’m going to be tackling the topic of Lent.
Lent is something I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into in the past, to be quite honest. But our church elders put together a family worship guide for Lent and it sparked my curiosity so I began studying on what Lent is and why I should care about it.
Easter has always been one of my top favorite holiday’s which is one reason I’m a little surprised at myself never having really paid much attention to what Lent was since it seems right up my alley. Easter is a wonderful time, not because of the candy and Easter egg hunts, or even that it means spring is here (which aren’t bad things to be happy about) but I’ve always loved it because of the reminder that Jesus loved us enough to endure incredible amounts of pain and heartache to sacrifice himself for us and that he rose again after three days. That he willingly was separated from God, all for us. Not just those of us who believe in him, but for the very people who tortured and killed him, the very people who torture and kill other people even, he sacrificed himself so that everyone could have the opportunity to repent, turn from their wickedness and be born again to live in eternity with him. A love like that is almost impossible to fathom, and even more incredible to experience.
Anyway, let’s dig in.
What is Lent?
Lent is the 40 day period of spiritual preparation leading up to Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday (February 26th this year) and ending the Thursday before Easter (April 9th this year). It is a time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Many who participate will give up something for this 40 day period to symbolize Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert. 40 is a number that comes up a lot in the Bible, it’s mentioned around 159 times and typically symbolizes a period of testing or trial. Examples: It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights receiving the Ten Commandments, he also sent spies for 40 days to investigate the promised land. Jonah warned Nineveh of it’s impending demise if they didn’t turn from their sin for 40 days. Elijah went 40 days without food or water to Mount Horeb where he received instruction from the Lord on how to lead the people of Israel.
Moses, Elijah and Jesus are probably the most famous 40 day examples because they all fasted for this time frame. When people participate in Lent they don’t always give up food, sometimes it’s a certain food, or a habit. Something that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just something that when we think of it we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made and we use that time to reflect and connect with Jesus.
How does one participate in Lent?
There are a few different ways people participate in Lent, a few common ones include:
-Giving up a certain food
-Committing to daily Bible reading
-Praying daily Lenten prayers
As I was looking up Bible verses about fasting, I came across Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
So, in the spirit of this verse I’ve decided not to include what I may or may not give up for Lent because that seems like a pretty personal and intimate thing that I would like to keep between Jesus and myself.
Is Lent mentioned in the Bible?
No, Lent is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. But there are plenty of times where fasting and prayer are mentioned, which is why Lent became a thing. I did a little research and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Lent was likely observed even before the Easter festival since Apostolic Times (around 30AD to 312AD) but the practice wasn’t formalized until the Council of Nicaea in 325CE.
Because it isn’t specifically mentioned as a practice we are ‘required’ to participate in as a Christian, it definitely isn’t something you have to do to be a “good” Christian. Especially since we all know (at least, I hope we do) that there isn’t anything we ourselves can do to be worthy of God, it is not by our own works that we’re saved and participating or not participating in Lent will not get us into Heaven, only Jesus can do that. If we view any practice as the thing that we can do in order to get into Heaven then we have missed the point.
So, while it isn’t a requirement, it is just something we can participate in if we feel called to, in the hopes that spending this time in spiritual preparation and anticipation of Easter we can just really focus on our walk with Christ. Which, honestly is something we should try and aspire to throughout the year anyway, not just during one season.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking a lot about sacrifice, which is really one of the points of Lent, to think about the sacrifice that Christ made for us.
As most of you know I’m pregnant, around 12 weeks (according to my last menstruation date I’m 12w5d but according to the last ultrasound baby is 12w1d so, somewhere in there) and as many pregnant mother’s know, there’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into pregnancy (as well as motherhood as a whole, fatherhood as well.)
I had planned to finish and publish this post in time for Ash Wednesday, however Tuesday night I had a scare and thought I was losing the baby. Wednesday morning I went in for a check up and baby is just fine, thank God. But I’ve been put on a sort of bed rest, nothing too restrictive, but basically no heavy lifting, not spending tons of time on my feet (so no more elaborate meals which I love doing but normally mean I’m on my feet in the kitchen for hours at a time) which is going to be REALLY hard for me. I’m very much a “caregiver”, I love cooking for my family and have a pretty independent do-it-myself personality, and accepting help (and definitely asking for help) is something I’m really bad at so hubby finds it amusing, he’s very helpful and willing but this is definitely going to take some getting used to for me to actually ask for help. In a way, I think it’s good. It will give us a chance to grow together and I know it’s a weakness for me to have a hard time accepting help from people who are able and willing to help.
I’ll do another post sometime with more details about what is going on, but don’t worry, baby is fine and I’m fine we just have to take it easy for a bit.
Anyway, one thing I’ve really been thinking about is how much sacrifice plays a role in everyday life, it’s something we all have to learn at some point and Jesus is the perfect example of sacrifice. As scary as my experience was the other day, I’m thankful for the perspective shift. When I thought I was losing my baby a million thoughts ran through my head and when I heard their beautiful heartbeat and saw them wiggling and kicking around in my womb on the ultrasound monitor I nearly cried with happiness. At that moment I felt like nothing else mattered by this little life that was growing inside me, if I needed to be on bed rest and I ended up gaining 50lbs from not doing much so be it, if I end up high risk and have to be in the hospital again like with my older son then so be it, all I cared about was that my baby was going to be alright. It has brought me a brand new perspective on sacrifice and I feel like it’s honestly pretty perfect timing.
So, in closing this blog post, I hope this has given you a new perspective on Lent as this study has done for me, and whether or not you choose to participate in the season I hope you at least will commit to setting aside time to read the word and connect with Jesus.