I never gave Lent much of a thought growing up. Even though I went to a Presbyterian Church, I don’t remember much happening around Lent. And then I became a member at a Baptist Church, which never even mentioned Lent (until recently).
This year, I’m really looking forward to Lent (which begins this Wednesday). Yes, I know there have been excesses and abuses by the liturgical church with regards to Lent. Yes, I know there have been morbid misrepresentations of what Lent means. But I choose to observe Lent, and here’s why:
Lent is an opportunity for me to intently focus on Whole Life Worship in a greater way. It’s all about conforming to the image of Christ. It’s about a spirituality that moves from the internal world of thoughts and feelings to the real life stuff of attitudes and actions. Lent is all about surrendering my life to Christ as a worshipful response to His grace.
Lent creates a beautiful symmetry in remembering the life and ministry of Christ. Forty days before Resurrection Day is Lent season, which is where we face our fallen humanity and limitations. The forty days after Resurrection Day is the season of celebration culminating with Christ’s ascension to heaven. This is a season where we celebrate the promise of forever life and the divine image of God being restored in us. I need the balance of understanding both Christ’s humanity and divinity, especially as it pertains to who I am now and the transformed person God calls me to become.
Lent signifies Christ’s journey to the Cross; his determination as he set his face steadfastly toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), the sacrifice of his own will in order to do the Father’s (Matt 26:39), and facing tremendous obstacles in order to accomplish what the Father asked of Him. In Lent, I take decisive steps toward my own Jerusalem, knowing that I must choose to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus.
It is easy for me to get caught in the rut of living life for my self and my interests. It is easy to be comfortable in my own brand of Christianity; to presume that I am following Jesus, when I’m actually doing little different than anyone else. Lent provides me the opportunity to break out of those ruts and comfort zones, and join with countless others in doing something out of the ordinary within life’s everyday ordinary.
So I look forward to Lent. I hear the echo of Thomas a Kempis’ words when he wrote, “When Christ calls a person to follow him, he bids him to come and die.” I hear the cry of the Baptizer in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” I hear my Savior’s invitation for me to join Him in the journey to Calvary.
What traditions or rhythms help you to understand what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus Christ?