3 Reasons Why I am Observing Lent This Year
Written by Grace Jones
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and spans for forty days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Whilst some traditions may have become too legalistic in their observance of Lent, at its heart, Lent is about anticipating the cross.
It’s about remembering that before we can celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave, we must first consider the temptations and suffering he took on for us in his life and death.
Often people observing Lent enter a time of self denial and sacrifice by giving up something or fasting, just as Jesus did in the wilderness. Sometimes people use the season as a time to focus on a particular aspect of their spiritual life through focussed bible reading and prayer.
Lent is not something that is spoken about in the Bible and it is not something that is mandated by our church. But this year, for the first time in my adult life, I have decided to observe Lent, and there are three main reasons for this.
1) I want to organise my time around the Christian calendar
We organise our lives in many ways. Weeks, months, seasons, even appointments within a single hour! When I pause for a moment and think about how any given year of mine has been organised, it has been largely dictated by societal norms and my own busyness and values. In my life as a student and a teacher, my year was structured around school terms, which were largely determined by the government’s decisions about when children should take a break. My own diary is filled with self determined appointments concerning what I do, where I should be, when I should do things and the people I should do them with. I’ve found my bearings throughout the year based on which family member has a birthday coming up and what holiday (or perhaps just commercial opportunity) is being marketed at the shops. But this year, I want to think about my time differently. I want to surrender my time, how I use my time and how I even think about the concept of time itself, to God, who is timeless. Instead of going through the motions as I blindly have in previous years, this year I want to start organising the rhythms and routines of my life around something with more meaning and substance. By choosing to observe Lent, I am trying to mindfully participate in the Christian calendar, a system of seasons that bases itself on the story of the gospel.*
2) I want to create triggers throughout my day that prompt my heart back to Jesus
As I observe Lent this year, I will be giving up chocolate. That’s not particularly impressive (or even unique!) and I know it’s a very small sacrifice in the scheme of things. However, for me, eating some chocolate is a daily ritual. It’s something I look forward to each day. At times, it’s been something I’ve planned the rest of my food around so that I can enjoy it ‘guilt-free’. It’s a little luxury that I enjoy, sometimes even crave. I’m not proud of this, but at times, it’s even been a source of comfort. On a daily basis, my tastebuds expect chocolate. They anticipate chocolate. They crave after and long for chocolate. The day feels incomplete without chocolate. How ridiculous that I have trained my body to pine for chocolate like this! It got me thinking though: do I pine for Jesus like this? Do I crave time in God’s word like this? Could I join with the psalmist and honestly claim that in the day to day realities of living my life, I, like the deer, pant for God? Do I truly thirst for Him? My aim as I observe Lent this year is that each time I think of chocolate, each time my body craves its sweetness, I would be prompted to redirect my thoughts to Jesus and revel in the sweetness of my Saviour.
3) I don’t want Easter to creep up on me by surprise
Our grocery stores certainly prepare for each season well in advance. You’d think that the surplus of bunnies and eggs would be enough to stop Easter from suddenly creeping up on me each year. But when I see hot cross buns available in late January, I roll my eyes and don’t give a moment’s thought to Easter. The weeks roll by and before I know it, New Year’s Day has given way to Easter weekend, which is a delightful blur of food and family and Christian activity, but the time seems more empty than it ought to be. I feel that this is because I’ve been entering the Easter season without a whole lot of thoughtfulness and reflection. As I observe Lent this year, and more intentionally meditate on the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus, I’m prayerfully hoping that I will enter the Easter weekend this year with a deeper conviction of my own need for a Saviour and a more profound wonderment at what Jesus has done for me.
So what about you? Can I encourage you in joining me in Lent?
Will you choose to enter the Easter season mindfully this year?
*The Christian Calendar consists of five segments that represent different moments in the story of the gospel. ‘Advent’ focusses on the anticipation and arrival of Jesus into the world; ‘Epiphany’ focusses on the manifestation of Christ: the revealing of Himself as God and the unfolding of His plan as Saviour; ‘Lent’ focusses on the temptation and death of Jesus, ‘Easter’ focusses on the resurrection of Jesus and ‘Pentecost’ focusses on the sending of the Holy Spirit and the work to be done between now and when Jesus returns.