Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. My first introduction to the Lenten season came when, as a fifth grader, I sang in the children’s choir at First Methodist Church in my hometown. My father was friends with the music minister, whose wife had been my teacher the year before, and they somehow conspired to get me involved. I enjoyed the opportunity to sing, but Methodism was different.
Lent was introduced to me as a time when you give things up. My fellow mini-choristers were all abuzz one Thursday with what they were giving up for Lent that year. Sweets were a popular choice, as was soda. Some may have given up television or video games. I was a bit confused by the whole idea, to be honest. Why are we giving up things? And what on earth is Lent?
Now, I am aware that Lent is the mirror image of Advent, a season of preparation for a major church holiday. Just as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child during Advent, we take time during Lent to prepare our hearts to honor Christ’s death and resurrection.
The fasts of my childhood seemed to be mostly about giving something up to get something else. In junior high, girls who wanted to lose a few pounds gave up sugar and soda during Lent. Those who needed better grades gave up television and video games so they would have more time to study. It was also about community, about fitting in and identifying with a certain group.
Now, as an adult, I find myself at the beginning of Lent wondering how I can prepare myself for the Easter season. How do I prepare to break bread at the Passover table? To mourn at the foot of the cross? To celebrate at the empty tomb? I am challenged to take stock of myself, to ask if I am truly the kind of Christian that I want to be. Am I living in a way that honors the Christ’s death and resurrection?
I struggle, these days, to center my life in Christ. There is so much else going on, and some days it seems like there is no time to stop and find that center. I rush from class to class and crisis to crisis, planning days and weeks in advance in order to find time for everything that needs doing. And while sometimes Christ is a joy, sometimes He is also a discipline. It can be hard to pull myself out of my head and intentionally engage with God.
This Lenten season, I want to make Christ my center. I want to create sacred space and time in my daily life. I want to define what it means to be a Christian in this season of my life. I want to prepare myself for the encounters of Holy Week by bringing those encounters into my daily living, breathing, working, learning, and being.
How are you observing Lent?