Some quick thoughts for this new Lenten season:
1. Lent is about preparing our hearts for the journey of Easter.
It includes themes like brokeness, redemption, self-denial, forgiveness, death and life and many more. I have found that if focus on only one of these themes and neglect others that I miss out on part of the goodness Lent can offer. A Lenten journey that covers a lot of ground is the way to go.
2. Whatever you do, don’t become a legalist.
What to give up, what to add, which devotional, how much do I say or not say to my right hand about what my left hand is doing and a host of other questions. We have to be careful to not ruin the journey of the cross and the empty tomb with the potential trappings of religiosity. Religion is good but it was never intended to hinder experiencing God, it is meant to aid the pursuit.
3. What you give up for Lent is a symbol of self-denial, it is not a test or a proof of love.
Maybe you want to give up chocolate, or alcohol, or social media participation, whatever it is, don’t make it the point of Lent. For me the things I give up are blessings I enjoy as opposed to bad habits I want to avoid. I want to pick up this blessing again on Easter Sunday and “toast” with God of the beauty and the power of the abundant life He gives.
Further, I don’t think God finds any relief in discovering that He is more important to me than coffee and I do not think that He really needs me to ignore calling my Mom to convince Him of the role He plays in my life. I find a lot of this thinking to not only miss the point (including passages like Matthew 10:37) but also create a poor view of God Himself. Giving up something focuses to think of our idols, our blessings, the nature of sacrifice, and helps us put certain aspects of life in perspective.
4. Whatever you add, let it be something life-giving.
Maybe it’s more time in prayer, maybe it’s volunteering in a particular capacity, maybe it’s about being more intentional about the relationships you have in your life, maybe it’s about finding solitude. Don’t add religious chores, spiritual feel-goods, or things that will tax you and your loved ones even more. Add the things that allow you to pursue the reasons Jesus willingly went to the cross.
5. Avoid seeing Easter Sunday as the destination.
Rather it’s the climax of the greatest story we know and a story we get to continue living in. Avoiding Easter as the destination is probably the single greatest realization I’ve had in allowing me to celebrate the Christian holidays. It’s not observance and all my metaphors fail me here.
Easter is the amazing story of Jesus telling us “that death is not the victor. Death has been defeated, and you are invited to live the life God had always intended, in this world and in the next.”
Grace and peace to you this Lent.