Journey to the Cross: Lent
Prayer and fasting for 40 days seems a little… extreme, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t something to that extent be reserved for something like Jesus’ experience in the desert that Lent parallels? After all, He’s Jesus. Surely, that can’t be expected of us mere humans, right?
Not true. Lent is a time for all believers. It is a time marked by repentance – for turning away from the luxuries of the world and fixing our eyes on God, that we may be renewed and refreshed. Lent begins on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, when participants often receive the mark of the Cross on their forehead with ashes (often, the ashes of the previous year’s Palm Sunday branches. Those resourceful liturgists!). Even those hymn-holding traditionalists and synth-riding Hillsong-thumpers come together in this season of prayer, repentance, and fasting to observe the journey of Jesus Christ in the 40 days preceding Easter weekend. But why is it important for us?
Lent is a call to simple living, prayer, and fasting for the sake of growing closer to God. In a predominantly affluent, comfortable culture which sedates us mentally and spiritually, how could simplicity and focus not be important? In this time, a believer chooses an item to abstain from or a lifestyle to alter starting with the Lenten season. This is a great way to break the cycle of a social media-insulated culture and wake up the spiritual life.
Maybe you’ve strayed far from God and you feel stuck in a lifestyle you know is unhealthy. Maybe you’re too attached to your phone. Maybe you’ve become so dependent on caffeine that your friends know not to speak to you before your daily cup of coffee. For those searching for more in life, Lent is a perfect trial-run for a lifestyle change and way to simply grow closer to God.
So where do we start? To Lenten newcomers, 40 days may seem intense, but finding a cause that motivates you can turn a challenge into a transformation. When God transforms something or someone, it is always for the better. Popular commitments for Lent include fasting from a certain food. Many give up caffeine (and take up aspirin for the headaches), others give up sweets, and some go more traditional and abstain from meat altogether! Others give offerings of their time to the Lord in a commitment to daily prayer or scripture reading. Its important to engage in something you don’t usually do because this is how growth takes place! You can also look up other lists online for more ideas.
As you consider your decisions for this Lenten season, here are some points to help you make the most of your time of prayer and fasting.
- Choose something that motivates you.
- What you choose to give up (or to take up!) will go much further if you find something interesting. Choose something that piques your interest or motivates you to continue on.
- Take a deeper look.
- Don’t go alone.
- As with most difficult things in life, they become easier when you let other people help. Tell your goals to a friend. Ask them to help hold you accountable and check up on how you’re keeping your commitment. Better yet, pick someone to partner with in your commitment to Lent, and keep each other accountable for it!
This Lenten season, experience more in your walk with God. Give yourself to God and in that, know what it is to live in fullness. In it all, join with others in the Church to observe the journey to the Cross.