Today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent. Which means that people all over the world will begin their Lenten fasts. In my experience, however, these chosen fasts have more to do with crash dieting than with deepening one’s walk with Christ.
Having grown up in a tradition that didn’t talk that much about practicing Lent, I only had a vague idea of what Lent was as a high schooler. If you were to ask 16 year old me what it meant to practice Lent, I probably would have told you that for 40 days before Easter you weren’t allowed to eat chocolate, soda, and you were supposed to go for a 3 mile run instead of watching TV every day. In essence, Lent was a second shot at that failed New Year’s Resolution. Other than the timing of the season, I didn’t know that Lent had all that much to do with God.
As an adult, I have come to understand what Lent means in the practice of the faith. The season is meant to be a time of anticipation, a time of making room for Christ. That is the purpose of a Lenten fast- to create a hunger for God, to create space in your life and your schedule to devote yourself to prayer and reflection. In my thinking, the practice of Lent should draw you closer to God, creates a sense of fullness and satisfaction, not one of hunger or deprivation. So let me ask you (humbly, gently); does giving up chocolate, caffeine, or fast food really create room and awareness of God in your life?
Is there another practice that could better accomplish that purpose?
I so often see people (and have been guilty myself) of choosing something for a fast that is really more of a diet plan. In my mind I am thinking I am doing this for God, but if I also happen to lose a bit of weight in the process, that’s ok too. As I reflect upon this, I realize that that is dancing a line very close to idolatry. What am I really pursuing in this goal? To draw closer to Christ, or to draw closer to my goal of the perfect body?
In the past few years I have decided that instead of giving something up for Lent, I will instead add something. A daily (or if that’s too hard, regular) practice that serves to draw me closer to my savior. To more deeply connect me with the author of life. To invite me into a time of personal worship. This year, I am going to try and set some time each day to create. As an act of worship. Acknowledging that I am formed in the image of my Creator. That practice speaks deeply into my soul as something I need right now. Perhaps there is something your heart is whispering to you that would draw you closer to God…
Time each day to walk, outside, appreciating God’s marvelous creation.
A family meal each week, set aside to connect with each other on a deeper level.
Worship music in your car on your morning commute.
Reading the Christian book that has been sitting on your nightstand for weeks.
My challenge to you is to use Lent to enrich your relationship with Christ in a way that has no other outside benefits. Let your pursuit of Him for the next 40 days be unspoiled by other secondary goals.
And may the Peace of Christ be with you.