Ash Wednesday cometh and, with it, the beginning of Lent.
My earliest memories of Lent are rooted in my community theater days in Oklahoma. At a rehearsal on a late-winter evening, I remember a grizzled actor named Bob announcing that he was giving up Brown Derby beer for Lent. I was a happy-go-lucky college student back then who did my own share of “12-oz curls”–though giving up Brown Derby, with all the ambience of yeasty dishwasher, didn’t seem to be that noble of a sacrifice.
Not that I would have given up anything for Lent, anyway. Church and I had parted years earlier and I doubt I would have jettisoned anything that fed my flesh, even for a compelling reason that didn’t involve religion.
Are you like I was? Even today, I understand why some Christians turn their noses up at Lent. It seems like a churchy relic of the past–a moth-eaten, Romish tradition that emphasizes works over grace. I mean, really, what does giving up chocolate or eating fish have to do with true spirituality?
Nothing, if you put it that way.
But let’s look at Lent by asking some questions:
Do you need to repent of anything?
Is there a habit in your life that keeps you from enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promised?
Does your prayer life need deepening? your study of the Bible? your devotion to the Lord?
Would meditating of the great sacrifice of Jesus lead you to greater sacrifice in service to others?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you just may need Lent, after all. These 40 days leading to Easter can be mischaracterized as a marathon of morose spiritual discipline or appreciated as an adventurous journey to Cross and Tomb. Yes, Lent brings dust and ashes, darkness, wilderness, shadows and temptation. It can also bring forgiveness, humility, sustenance, self-understanding and renewal of mind, body and spirit.
I may just need Lent, after all.
Maybe you do, too.