In the church we “celebrate” Lent for the 40 days leading up to Easter. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance in preparation for the celebration of new (renewed) life given to us through the abundant grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Traditionally, Catholics give up meat for the 40 days. My husband’s Episcopalian family members give up items for lent – material, food, etc. – and allow themselves to splurge on the item on Sundays only. We Presbyterians don’t really place a major emphasis on the “giving up” thing, only on the time of reflection and rededication of ourselves to God.
In the past I’ve led my Thursday Bible Study ladies in Ash Wednesday services and we’ve discussed Lent. Most of us in the study group have grown up “giving up” items simply because everyone else is doing it and if we believe in Jesus then we need to do the same thing to prove that we’re just as Christian as they are. Rather than encouraging the ladies to “give up” something for Lent, or even make “Lenten Resolutions” as I’ve recently heard talked about, I’ve encouraged the ladies to “take on Christ” for Lent.
By “taking on Christ” for Lent, we challenge ourselves to spend extra time in prayer and in the Scriptures over the 40 days leading up to Lent. We’ve talked about how God in Christ takes upon the sins of us and our world and then makes the ultimate sacrifice – that of a Son – in order to wash away our iniquities and make us whole in the sight of God. It’s nothing to take lightly, and it’s something that smacks me in the face every time I stop to think about it. Me? Really…me? It gives a whole new meaning to asking the question “Why me?” during times of suffering, doesn’t it?
My plans for the Lenten season are the same this year as they were the years ago when I began to challenge my Sisters in Christ. I plan to take on God this year, just as God has taken on me…continuously and forever.
We heard a sermon on Sunday morning about wrestling with God, and I plan to spend a lot of time wrestling with God this season. God knows that I need it…I’ve got a lot to work out and lay at God’s doorstep. But I’m comforted in knowing that God is not going to let go of me. Praise God for that!
I can’t wait to see how God grapples me this year. I can’t wait to see what I can learn and how I can grow through spending additional time in prayer and in the Word each day. I’ve not been as dedicated as I should be this semester with school, but I’m praying today that I will be dedicated enough to deepen a relationship that so desperately needs attention right now.
Ash Wednesday is a day for us to remember our origins…we are dust, and to dust we shall return. But in the meantime and the after-time, we live in deep relationship with God, in praise for the gift of new life that we get to celebrate again each Easter.
Blessings on you this Lenten season! May you be challenged as you either “give up” or “take on” in order to remember and prepare to celebrate.