Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What Lent is REALLY About

I decided a couple of days ago that I was going to give up being lazy for Lent.  So, in true "Fat Tuesday" form, I went to bed at 8:30PM last night.  (Jeff was out of town and Sam spent the night with his grandparents, so it was - truly - a Lenten miracle.)

I woke up this morning feeling as fresh as a daisy - likely the most well-rested I have been in YEARS.  Until, that is, I glanced at the clock and realized it was already almost 6:30AM. (Apparently I slept through my 4:30AM alarm that I set so I could get up and pull my house back in order, etc. before Jeff comes home and life resumes as normal today.)  I have to be at school at 7.

SO, on the first morning of Lent, I did not wake up and spend time in prayer and the Word while I casually sipped coffee and watched the sun rise.  I didn't start the day focused on the things that "truly matter" like I really want to do during this time.  Instead, I jumped out of bed frazzled and disappointed in myself.  I frantically texted our sitter to apologize for the disaster that is our house (Lord, let me be as wonderful a woman as her one day) and said a silent prayer that I wouldn't hit any stoplights on the way to work today.  Then, as I got in the shower to wake myself up, I let a few tears sneak out of my eyelids.

This wasn't exactly what I had in mind for Lent 2014.

I'm not sure it bodes well for me that I've already messed up on my commitment to not being lazy in only the first 24 6 hours of Lent... But, I have been thinking this morning about what Lent is REALLY about and that maybe - just maybe - there is something important to be learned from my "bad start" today...

By definition, lent is the "solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday [today] and covers approximately six weeks [or 40 days] before Easter."  

(Side Note: This definition is from Wikipedia, which pretty much goes against everything I believe as an English teacher, but I like it and I'm too lazy to do any further research.  Ugh.  I just broke my "Lenten resolution" again. Awesome.)

Wikipedia goes on to explain lent as "the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial."  (Sounds fun, right?!?)

The Roman Catholic Church (and many other Protestant denominations - although not the Southern Baptist one in which I grew up) practices these things through a period of fasting from meat and/or giving up something as a form of sacrifice and penitence for 40 days (symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert just prior to his crucifixion).

Recently, as a culture, I think we have become pretty enamored with the idea of "giving something up" for Lent.  I've heard it called "spring training for Christians," and I know my own tendency towards treating it as a "re-set" for all my new year's resolutions gone wrong.  This year, about half of my Facebook friends are giving it up for Lent (been there done that), my mom gives up sugar every year, and many in the blogosophere are into getting rid of "40 bags in 40 days" where they purge their house of excess stuff. 

I've done those things too (remember, last year I gave up my blog), and I think they are all REALLY good endeavors.  I think God will honor these sacrifices and, I hope, many will go in to Easter Week feeling freed from "chains" that tie them down during the rest of the year.  I, too, plan to "give something up" for Lent; but, I think there is a big risk that in all the "hype" of the season we miss the point and - really - sell ourselves quite short on the message of the cross...

At least in the spiritual/preparatory sense, Lent isn't about practicing our own self-control and DOING something for God; it is about admitting that we are completely weak before Him and desperate for His sacrifice.

It is, I'm afraid, more about waking up in the morning feeling "doomed" (like I did today), and recognizing that we will fail every.single.time when we try to do it alone; and, instead, being overwhelmed with gratitude for the fact that we don't have to.

I don't think it's bad to "give up" something for Lent... But, I do think it's crucial that we remember our insignificant our "sacrifice" really is.  God doesn't need our Facebook pages, processed foods, or bags of stuff.  He isn't disappointed in me because I overslept this morning; in fact, he will never be disappointed with me because Jesus already paid that debt.

Yes, for the next 40 days, I'm going to focus on being less lazy - on being intentional with my time in the way that I care for my family, invest in other people, and make my spiritual life a priority.  BUT, more than that, I am committing to see myself more the way that God sees me and really LIVING IN the truth of what Jesus' death means.

Are you with me?


  1. This was an awesome post - thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on Lent! Just what I needed to read this morning to put me in the right frame of mind for the Lenten season. I too am not part of the whole "give something up" group for Lent. I've decided this year to do a household chore I'd normally try and get out of each day but I also would really love to work on relying more on God and surrendering to His grace daily.

  2. Love you thoughts on Lent.

    During our youth group class in middle school we had giant piece of poster board and the teacher wrote LENT across it and we had to write down went lent meant to us. My brother who is year younger than me wrote down "The stuff you find in your belly button." He claims he was joking and knew what Lent was but it was definitely become a major family joke.

    PS - I TOTALLY missed you! I missed the whole domain thing. So glad I found you through FB. Hope all is well.

  3. E! I just found you again. What a nightmare. I'm so glad you're sticking around. Great post on Lent, I couldn't agree more.


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