Monday, February 22, 2016

Why We Are Observing Lent (Even Though We Aren't Catholic)

    I grew up knowing precious little about Lent. I was raised Southern Baptist (and am still proudly SBC) and oftentimes Lent was more of a joke than anything. If you hadn't done a task for a long time we would sarcastically say we were fasting that for Lent. "I'm  fasting cleaning my bathroom for Lent...". Yes, we can be more than a little irreverent at times in my house.

    My mother has always fasted in various regards, and I fast too, since I firmly believe it is a spiritual discipline endorsed by the Lord Himself. However, I have never, for whatever reason, truly fasted for Lent. I think I really thought it was just for Catholics, and since I really didn't understand it, I never gave it much though. I  also realized that not everyone has the same definition of what "fasting" truly means. I discovered, though, that just because I may not follow the regimen prescribed by the Catholic priests of old doesn't mean that I must choose to ignore this season entirely.

    The more I learn about Lent the more I appreciate the underlying meaning. In case you were as ill-informed as I, Lent is the 40 days, not including Sundays, prior to Easter. Fat Tuesday is more than just Mardi Gras-it's the last hurrah before a six week period of "less". Ash Wednesday kicks everything off-the ashes symbolizing the repentance and death to self that is the theme of Lent. And during Lent, you "fast"-in this present age, that can be anything from food to technology.

    And I think that is what finally sold me on observing Lent. It doesn't have to be "don't eat meat, except fish on Fridays, and never any sugar". It really can be about recognizing the excess in our life. and our focus on self-sufficiency. It can really be about quietly making repentance a part of every day life-not just something you do once and check off your list. It can really be about acknowledging, and reflecting on, the magnificent sacrifice Christ made when He gave His life for us on the cross. Those are things I need *more* of day.

    So, we are observing Lent in our own way this year-with a focus on all the things above: repentance, forgiveness, Christ's sufficiency and sacrifice. I would probably say what we are doing is "abstaining", rather than fasting, if you want to be technical about it. We are giving up something that we do every day, for a week at a time. I have chosen something to do by myself each day, and we have chosen something to do as a family. We decide what we will do on Tuesday, implement in on Wednesday, and change what we do the next week. So far, our choices have been simple, and perhaps something that wouldn't even cause a blip on your radar. However, they are things that are causing *us* to be more introspective and aware, which is really the point.

   So far we have done relatively small things; turning off the television at 7pm each night, not drinking soda, but I think it is really making an impact on our kids. They are really responding-they have been very aware of the choices, but haven't argued or complained about these small "abstinences". Hilariously, Joel has probably struggled with them a little moreso! He was very excited about getting to watch TV in the evenings again after that week was over. For myself, I am choosing more personal things in addition to our family's choice, like avoiding Facebook or Pinterest for assigned times during the day.

   We are also doing a nightly reading from a fabulous (free!) devotional from The Gospel Coalition. It is *not* intended for children, but I have made it work for our 7 and 10 year-old with only a few minor tweaks in vocabulary and subject matter. I absolutely adore this quote from the article that precedes the link,
"[Lent is]..first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.”

    We have spent a lot of time talking about what repentance and sacrifice really mean. My kids understand that giving up soda (or tv, or whatever) isn't a sacrifice, but since it is something we do often (you can judge, but I'm just being honest) it has been a good reminder daily that there are much more important things we must give up to follow Christ. Both kids have been really great about remembering (and sometimes reminding Joel and me!) and they have both asked insightful questions about fasting, and the season of Lent, but most importantly, how repentance leads to change and rejoicing in our salvation.

    I just cannot personally see anything negative about spending more time focused on Christ, more time avoiding self, more time reflecting on the truly awesome events of Easter, more time in gratitude for my salvation. I cannot help but feel that on some level, no matter how minimal, that doing this as a family will draw us closer together, because if nothing else, misery loves company, right? But seriously, I am loving seeing my kids gain a deeper understanding of what personal application of Scripture can look like in their lives.

  I would love to see Lent (or a similar observance) become more widespread in Protestant denominations. The corporate aspect is just absolutely so compelling to me-I loved this article about "Why Every Church Should Observe Lent". I feel that in this age of, "you do you" we miss that strengthening and unifying effect of "sacrificing" together. Rituals do have their place, and no matter how "modern" you believe yourself to be, they still help to cement memories and recollections. An empty ritual is worthless, that is why it is up to us individually to imbue it with meaning. That is my hope, that this, our first family venture in the the unknowns of Lent, that we will saturate this time with real understanding of Christ and His sacrifice in such a way, that long after it is over, we will still remember.

   Are you looking for more information? I found some good resources:
On Lent:
Six Reading Plans for Lent- Lifeway Women (includes another link to the devotional from TGC)
"Why Bother With Lent?" by Charles Colson
"Why Every Church Should Observe Lent" by Josh Martin (if you didn't read it already)

and for Easter:
"Maundy Thursday" by Beth Moore
"This Transforms How I See Easter" by Jennifer Dougan (If you only read one make it this one!)
"The Day of Differences" by yours truly

You can also always follow my "Christianity: He Is Risen" Pinterest board if you want to see what else I come up with!

So, do you observe Lent? How else to does your family make Easter more than just one spring Sunday?

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