I didn’t practice Lent growing up. I was raised in a strong Christian home with a very strong Christian mother. We went to church as often as physically possible. I went to a Christian elementary school and was on a Bible Quizzing team through most of my high school years. Yet I didn’t really know that much about Lent. I wasn’t raised in a tradition that typically practiced Lent.
Let me take a moment here to say that I am deeply grateful for my spiritual heritage and upbringing. I have grown to appreciate several traditions of Christianity that are different from my own. Observing the practice of Lent is something I’ve grown to love, however there is nothing wrong in choosing to not practice Lent.
At first Lent seemed fairly simple and straight forward. It’s fasting from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter. I was originally told you just pick something you want to stay away from for that time. While fasting in itself can sometimes be difficult, the concept was easy enough.
As I practiced, I also learned. As I studied, particularly Church History, it became clear that I had it all wrong. Lent is definitely about giving something up. It’s about fasting partly for the discipline but also for the awareness you gain.
As we restrict ourselves, we become increasingly more aware of several things. First, we become more aware of what we depend on most in our lives. When I have to go without something I have grown accustom to having in my life, where do I go? How do I react? What do I depend on?
We also become more aware of just how spoiled we are. If I choose to not eat meat for Lent, I realize there are still several options for food. What about those people who have to go without and don’t have as many options as I do? What about those people who are going without, not because of a religious season, but because of where they were born? My momentary so-called suffering becomes a catalyst for my concern for the real suffering of others in this world who are deeply loved by God. That concern forces me to begin viewing them through the eyes of Christ and hopefully challenges me to change my attitudes and behaviors in ways that allow my life to reflect the light of Christ into the dark places of this world.My momentary so-called suffering becomes a catalyst for my concern for the real suffering of others in this world who are deeply loved by God. Click To Tweet
Lent was far more than I had originally understood. There was more I needed to learn. Lent was about fasting. I began to learn that fasting wasn’t just about taking something away. In the Scriptures you often see fasting coupled with something else. You usually see fasting in conjunction with prayer. You don’t just subtract, you add. The time, energy, and resources I would spend on the thing I’m fasting must be spent in a new way. They need to be spent in a way that furthers the Kingdom of God in this world. If I fast from Starbucks, I could give that money to a friend in need or the homeless guy I see on my way to work. If I fast from lunch, I could spend my lunch break in prayer. There are countless examples, but I think you get the idea.
When we allow ourselves to sacrifice a small thing during a season like Lent, we make more space in our lives for God to move. We may truly begin to understand the meaning of the phrase, “less is more.”