Several years ago, Nathaniel and I began attending Ash Wednesday services and chose to participate in the season of Lent. Neither of us had ever attended churches that followed the traditional church calendar. I thought the service was beautiful. It was a time to remember just how small we are and how big God is. It was a time, for me, to rededicate my life to the One who created me, and to realize that because of the sacrifice of Jesus, I've been reconciled and accepted by Him. It was a time to remember my imperfect humanness and brokenness. It was a time that I could physically show with the mark of ashes that I was sorrowful for the hurt I have caused God by “the things I have done and the things I have left undone.” It was a time for humility, to remember where I have come from and where I will go.
What’s the use of following Lent? My friend was asked this by some girls in her small group. We don’t have to. Our church doesn’t require it.
Perhaps that’s why: it’s not required. We can choose to follow Lent. The girls are right in that God doesn’t require it. God desires a heart change, not a set of rules followed or a checklist completed. If all we were doing following Lent was hoping to gain God’s favor, we’d have missed the point. But, the season of Easter should be the most important of our year, shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t we take the time to appreciate what God has done for us and to meditate of His greatest sacrifice? Of course we should be doing this all year, and that’s the other side of the coin. But there is still something important and good about stopping and remembering, and by participating in this Lenten season, we are joining together with other believers in something infinitely greater than ourselves. By giving something up or focusing on a discipline for these weeks of Lent, we hope to reset the way we’ve ordered our lives, to slow ourselves down.
This year I’ve thought hard about what to give up. What would be a sacrifice to me? What do I spend time on that could be better used for God? Staying at home, I often will mindlessly search the internet while Zoe is napping. There’s little purpose other than to pass time. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to take a Sabbath each week from the internet. It has been good for me to be disconnected in that way on Sundays, because it allows for connection in so many other ways. My Lenten resolution is to be mindful of all my internet time and to see how it could be better used. This resolution gives me another way to say to my Creator: my time that you’ve given me is important and I choose to be aware of what I spend it on.
My life is so full and immediate. I can have what I want when I want it. I very rarely go without, and almost never by choice. So as I choose to participate in Lent, I am choosing to live life more slowly so as to live more purposefully.