-Abbie Walker, Editor
Last week marked the beginning of an important season for the Church—Lent. This period between Mardi Gras and Easter is one where Catholics and many Protestants take time to give up something in their lives and replace it with time with the Lord. Many regard Lent as simply a time where Christians try to see how long they can go without coffee, chocolate, or the Internet; but Lent is so much more than just a shortened New Year’s resolution; It’s a time of self-reflection, spiritual discipline, and ultimately, renewal.
As a Methodist, I celebrate the season of Lent. Over the years, I’ve given up Pinterest, sweet tea, and makeup, among other things, and this year, I’ve decided to give up staying up late. In other words, I’ve given myself a harsher bedtime with the intention of getting up earlier and having a more consistent devotion time. As a college kid and a night owl, I know this isn’t going to be easy. But Lent isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s meant to be challenging.
During our church’s Ash Wednesday service, my pastor talked about the significance of the ash cross we wear on our forehead to signify the beginning of Lent, how we have been marked for Christ. He also told us that this season is about spiritual healing—dealing with fresh wounds, but also cleansing old ones. It may be messy and painful, but we can ultimately look back and see a scar that reminds us of how God healed us. For me, this was such a different perspective on Lent.
The truth was, I had often treated this time as a way for me to somehow “prove” that I could discipline myself, that I could show God how devoted I was to Him. And to no surprise, that always failed. I wasn’t treating Lent the way I should have been—as a surrender.
You see, we give up something that is important to us, something we love so much that it pains us to separate from it. But we do it because God separated Himself from His only Son so that we might be made new. Our tiny sacrifice for about 40 days is so insignificant compared to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. However, taking the time to give things over to the Lord allows for the message of Easter to penetrate our hearts deeper than it would have otherwise.
Often, our spiritual lives get clouded and chaotic, and we need the Lord to dig out the nastiness in our hearts and re-center us on Him. If we make the decision to examine our lives, pull out the things that may be hindering our spiritual relationship, and then hand them over to God, we are allowing His power to cleanse our hearts so that His truth can sink in that much deeper.
But it’s not easy. Choosing to inspect ourselves and detach from something that is important to us can be downright difficult. However, the goal is for us to be brought closer to Christ and to be renewed in Him. The great thing about Lent is that if we fail in our commitments or restrictions (which I often do), Easter comes right after. How refreshing for the Gospel of grace and redemption to be preached right after a season of trying to stay disciplined in our faith!
Lent is a time to get right with the Lord, to search our hearts and let Him do the same, so that we might be healed. But it also keeps us from remaining numb to the message of Easter.
So whether your church celebrates Lent or not, I challenge you to take some time to reflect on the state of your spiritual life and let the Lord cleanse your heart so you can take in the Good News all the more deeply. After all, Jesus came so that we may be right with God—let us rejoice in that this spring.