Is it just me, or are Christians really divided on the whole observing Lent thing? Last week, a Facebook friend of mine posted, “Ash Wednesday is coming. What are you sacrificing for Lent?” I was taken aback, and even a little offended, by some of the replies she got. From people poking fun (“I’ve lent just about all I can afford!”) to the accusatory (“Since when are you Catholic or Episcopalian?”), people were quick to jab at something that, in my mind, is a sacred Christian practice.

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My Facebook friend got some meaningful comments, too. “Observing Lent isn’t about denomination—it’s about tuning distinctly into God during the season leading up to Easter.” And “Lent invites a break in my routine, a giving up or taking up something, to help me focus on Jesus as my priority.”

Personally, I am a huge fan of Lent, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was introduced to Lent around the lunch table in my high school cafeteria. Someone had given up sodas until Easter, and I had no idea why. Having been active in church most of my life, I was baffled that my friends would be participating in a Christian tradition that I had never heard of. My friends were just as perplexed that I knew nothing about Lent.

Somewhere between 10th grade and today, the Lenten season has become really valuable to my spiritual life. Whether I give up TV, desserts, shopping, or celebrity gossip, there’s something about committing those 40 days to God that holds me to it unlike my willpower (or lack thereof) the rest of the year. Making an intentional sacrifice really engages me in the Easter season, too. I have skipped Lent a few times since 10th grade, and each time I felt like I skipped over the true meaning of Easter as well. I was disconnected, and I glossed over the real weight of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Where do you stand on the Lenten issue? While Lent is a ritual with guidelines, it doesn’t have to be legalistic. If you’ve never observed Lent before, why not try it? You might be amazed at how the ancient tradition can lead you to a fuller, more refreshed Easter experience.

JUN_5421-bwLarissa Arnault is the Marketing Specialist for LifeWay Women. She spends her days writing copy and managing projects for all things related to the LifeWay Women brand. After hours, you can find her trying new recipes in her prized Le Creuset Dutch oven while listening to French music.

Comments

  1. Betty Marschner says:

    Being a “litugical sister” our LCMS (Lutheran church Missouri synod) always observes Lent. No, we do not give up anything although if someone wishes to fine it is not mandatory. We have special midweek services in which the minister usually picks a theme to concentrate on for those six weeks. Teh thremes get really interesting. Our’s this year is speaking on the Pslams of Ascent. It i s a solomn time of year as we focus on what Jesus did for each one of us. Our Catholic sisters have more ritual with thier observences but we must remeber eventhough ritual is given a bad name at times, it is good to go back and understand once more what the rituals mean. Then thier significance comes alive once more!

    • I love that, Betty. I agree that Lent shouldn’t be some mandatory, prescribed thing. And love your thought on understanding rituals which brings their significance to life! Lent can be such a meaningful time spiritually (at least it has been for me), and I feel it has gotten a bad rap in some cases. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  2. People in the church we serve haven’t observed Lent either, but the point in the blog about our focus on Christ is vital, anyway you look st it!

    • I totally agree, Carole! I have never participated in Lent through a church. For me it’s like resetting my heart more than a strict observation. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I read some historical accounts of why ppl ate fish instead of meat. It was less expensive and the church collected the “extra” money as a love offering to help care for the orphans and widows. If this were still the reason behind the meat fast, I’d be all for it. Today it just seems like self righteous posturing.
    Didn’t Christ sacrifice for the benefit of the lost – for the suffering world? I’m not trying to be mean spirited or unkind, rather I challenge those who wish to sacrifice to do so with the goodwill of men, of others, in mind, as our Redeemer did for all. By all means “give-up” something, then give that which you gave up to help others.

    • I hear you, Lisa. Thank you for your comment! For me Lent is a very personal heart thing rather than an outward “Hey, look what I’m giving up” kinda thing. I think it’s fine to share with people what you’re giving up, especially if you need accountability. But when I make a commitment at Lent, I hold to it because God and I will know if I don’t–not anyone else. Again, thanks for your perspective!

    • I grew up southern baptist, but was introduced to Lent when I began my nursing career at a catholic hospital. I consider myself a Child of God now and belong to a nondenominatinal church. I am not sure I quite understand the whole concept and process of Lent and will be doing some more research, but all that being said, I hear people say they are giving up “chocolate, or diet soda, or cursing, or whatever” and I get a bit repulsed actually. Jesus died on the Cross bearing all our sin and shame and “we” give up soda or cursing or some other trivial frivolous silly thing for Lent…come now…really?? Open to education or comments…thanks

      • I hear you, Nichole. Giving up something like soda or chocolate may seem frivolous, but my friend Cherilyn explained it to me in a way that changed my view. She often gives up drinking Coke for Lent, and she said that every time she passed the Coke machine at work or saw an advertisement or craved a soda, those moments turned her thoughts directly toward God. It was so interesting to me that walking by a Coke machine, which would be a typical part of her work day and ordinarily have nothing to do with God, could be her daily reminder of Him. Ultimately, I think Lent is about the disposition of your heart regardless of what you give up. And my friend Cherilyn’s explanation made me realize that no sacrifice is too small when it points you back to Christ.

  4. Anita McCoy says:

    Our Church does not engage in any special services or activities for Lent, our family would like to have devotionals at home during Lent; does anyone have a good website that offers a seasonal theme/activities that a person can do at home.

  5. Good stuff Larissa!! I observe lent personally each year even though my church does not. I was raised Episcopalian so I was raised observing Lent and like you, I love how it prepares my heart for Easter. This year God has me taking a discipline on rather than giving something up. It’s been a long time since I’ve done it this way. But I’m excited about it. Thanks for writing on Lent!! Here we go.
    Paige.

  6. I am grateful for Lent because it helps me to be a disciplined follower rather than a girl who stumbles through life with her own juggling act of priorities. I’m not as likely to just react, but to stop and think. It helps me walk in the Spirit, not by my power or might. I think a lot more about needing God during Lent and am grateful for a season of discipline. God’s timing is so perfect for me, in this particular case, because we just finished the chapter called, ” I am undisciplined ” from Angela Thomas’s BRAVE study………. just in time for LENT !!

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