Is it just me, or are Christians really divided on the whole observing Lent thing? Last week, a Facebook friend of mine posted, “Ash Wednesday is coming. What are you sacrificing for Lent?” I was taken aback, and even a little offended, by some of the replies she got. From people poking fun (“I’ve lent just about all I can afford!”) to the accusatory (“Since when are you Catholic or Episcopalian?”), people were quick to jab at something that, in my mind, is a sacred Christian practice.
My Facebook friend got some meaningful comments, too. “Observing Lent isn’t about denomination—it’s about tuning distinctly into God during the season leading up to Easter.” And “Lent invites a break in my routine, a giving up or taking up something, to help me focus on Jesus as my priority.”
Personally, I am a huge fan of Lent, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was introduced to Lent around the lunch table in my high school cafeteria. Someone had given up sodas until Easter, and I had no idea why. Having been active in church most of my life, I was baffled that my friends would be participating in a Christian tradition that I had never heard of. My friends were just as perplexed that I knew nothing about Lent.
Somewhere between 10th grade and today, the Lenten season has become really valuable to my spiritual life. Whether I give up TV, desserts, shopping, or celebrity gossip, there’s something about committing those 40 days to God that holds me to it unlike my willpower (or lack thereof) the rest of the year. Making an intentional sacrifice really engages me in the Easter season, too. I have skipped Lent a few times since 10th grade, and each time I felt like I skipped over the true meaning of Easter as well. I was disconnected, and I glossed over the real weight of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Where do you stand on the Lenten issue? While Lent is a ritual with guidelines, it doesn’t have to be legalistic. If you’ve never observed Lent before, why not try it? You might be amazed at how the ancient tradition can lead you to a fuller, more refreshed Easter experience.
Larissa Arnault is the Marketing Specialist for Lifeway Women. She spends her days writing copy and managing projects for all things related to the Lifeway Women brand. After hours, you can find her trying new recipes in her prized Le Creuset Dutch oven while listening to French music.