The season of Lent is upon us. If you ask the average American when asked what Lent is, they will probably tell you that it’s the time of year when you have to give something up that you really like. Believer or not, that’s usually the general idea of Lent. If you are like me, you have never really given a lot of thought to Lent because it sounds kind of outdated, historical.
While there is enough information out there to write an essay on Lent, I think Noel Piper accurately and simply defines it in her book Treasuring God In Our Traditions. She writes, “Lent comes from an Old English word that means lengthen, signifying that the days are getting longer because the spring is here. Among many Christians Lent has come to mean the pre-Easter season that begins on Ash Wednesday. Traditionally Lent is a season of sober , realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God will renew our love for him and our dependence on him.”
So, with that said, we all could use a little more turning away from ourselves and returning to God, couldn’t we? Kevin and I chose together to rid our lives of sweets and all things confectionary. While we wouldn’t consider these things to be distracting us from God, choosing not to consume them serves as a reminder to us to think about Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross. We remember our need for him each time we think, “what’s for dessert?” or “I really would like a cookie right now.” Because we enjoy sweets and think about them often (who doesn’t??), we are now thinking MORE about the upcoming Easter season and exactly what it means to us.
This is just an example, and there are many different avenues you could pursue when participating in Lent. For some, it may not mean giving up anything because legalism and self-righteousness sneak in the back door. For others, there may really be something in your life that is keeping you from thinking on Jesus and spending more time reflecting on him. T.V., internet, shopping(again, this includes internet!), recreation, sports, reading novels, eating…you get the idea. But before you jump up and take a leap into the Lent season, let this excerpt from one pastor’s sermon set your priorities straight:
Do not give up something that you are going to purge on Easter morning. Your Lenten sacrifice of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups does not make you a better Christian if you eat a bag full of them before sundown on Easter day and forget all about Lent.
God doesn’t want your chocolate, He wants you.
When contemplating your sacrifice, make sure you are growing closer to Him. Maybe you don’t need to give up anything. Maybe you need to give something… namely, yourself.
If you must give up something, give up sin.