Our prompt for Lent was framed with the following questions: “How do you observe Lent? What impact does the time of leading up to Easter mean to you, your faith and your writing?”
In past years, my Easter preparation has been to read a Gospel, or read books such as Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. This year, however, I wanted to engage more deeply in the meaning and beauty of Lent. Not coming from a Liturgical background, I researched both the history and regular practices of Lent. One helpful resource was SharonEspeseth’s earlier blogs on Lent. She challenged us to wake up our souls for Lent through goals, reading devotionals, prayer, repentance, fasting, and almsgiving.
Sharon’s concept of “waking up” resonated with me. It’s pre-spring, and in spring we wake up to new life after the cold, dark days of winter. Birds will soon return, and early spring flowers will poke through the soil. Just so, Lent is meant to awaken our spirits to its meaning. (The word “Lent” actually comes from the Old English meaning of “spring”!)
While we’re only a few days into Lent, God is already awakening me to focus on several important components.
Time with God
Several days ago, God prompted me to spend extended time with Him. Doing so fits into Lent’s second meaning: “slow” in Latin, a time we slow down to put our lives in order and to clarify priorities—like spiritual housecleaning. Without first spending time with God, I could become too absorbed in Lent’s self-examination, and my spirit can become heavy with my needs and the needs of others. How much I need to be reminded of Nehemiah’s words to his people: “The Joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Confession and Repentance
God has awakened my spirit to greater confession and repentance, common practices of Lent. "Search me O God," the psalmist David wrote (Psalm 139:23-24). While self-examination is important, the Spirit points to areas that I need to confess. The Book of Common Prayer sums it up well: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” We also confess things that have become too important—idols--including vices outlined in Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:3-15
Confession for me means going beyond myself to confess and call Canada back to God, especially during the current and past turbulences. My prayer has become, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
A good friend described self-denial as a sacrifice, giving up something that’s hard to do. Perhaps excesses or preoccupations or distractions. For me, that means cutting cut down on coffee. Also, with living alone, I have a lot of time to myself. God has prompted me to spend more time with my extended family—through phone calls, emails/texts, visits, and invitations. I know there will be more self-denials to come.
Fasting to “Give It up for Freedom”
Scriptures teach that through self-denial and fasting, we can free ourselves and others from injustice and oppression (Isaiah 58:6-12). The International Justice Ministry has challenged me this Lent to “Give it up for freedom”, giving what money I save from my excesses to help stop slavery.
As I’ve begun formal practices of Lent, I’m focusing more and more on why I’m observing this season. “Jesus came to defeat the Devil and Death,” wrote Barry Krammes, “but He also came to apply His victory to our daily lives. As we carefully examine ourselves we become keenly aware of our short-comings and sins but at the same time we are filled with overwhelming joy as we meditate on Jesus’ life and how He endured the cross for our salvation.”[i]
God is ready to awaken our spirits, not only during Lent, but also throughout the year. I pray you would have a listening ear and tender heart to respond to the “deep, deep love of Jesus”.
As you describe your pre-Easter or Lenten journey this year, what principles help you most to focus on what Christ has done for you? How can your blog encourage your readers?