Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten season. It’s cold and icy here, and church was cancelled this morning. Andy is at work, the kids are busy building a fort, and I am having “church” in my pajamas on the couch. I have read Matthew this week– saturating my heart with the Words of Life, and I can’t help but think about the beauty of Lent and the coming Easter season.
You see, I grew up in a wonderful home where my father is Catholic and my mother is Baptist. After marrying, the decided not to “convert” or “go to their own churches,” but rather to interweave their denominations. My entire life, we went to the Catholic church at 8:00 AM as a family then straight to the Baptist church at 10:30 AM–together. Granted as a ranting teenager, I threw more than a handful of fits about having to go to two churches every Sunday, but looking back I wouldn’t have changed my upbringing for the world. I feel like I have been able to glean the best of both worlds. My ultimate decision was to attend a Protestant church–not so much because I held firm to the details and doctrines, but more because it was where I attended while courting my husband, and it became a family to me. I was able to worship with other believers each week, and grow in my love and knowledge of the Word. I haven’t ever really considered myself someone who “left the Catholic church”–although of course, I did; rather, I view it as bringing the reverence and love of liturgy and unity with me as I worship elsewhere.
That said, I’ve often noticed that there seems to be a confusion, even a judgement, of the practices of Lent outside of the Catholic church. A sort, “Oh, how cute, they are giving up chocolate for a few weeks. Or, I don’t understand what the big deal is with not eating meat on Fridays.” I believe these small sacrifices are often viewed as simply “ritual” or tradition. But fasting, in all capacities, is biblical. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says,
When you fast……..
Not IF, but WHEN. It is a calling of the believer. I am just growing into a place in my faith where I am trying to work this out, but I find it fascinating. I always sort of considered fasting a thing for people who were in deep grief or mourning, but I am just learning about the depth of fasting. For instance, there are many reasons to fast. The biblical reasons for fasting are:
- Inquiry of God
The idea behind fasting during Lent is mostly preparation–preparing our hearts for the death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter. Preparing our hearts to receive Him, to worship Him. From the outside it looks like not eating a little chocolate, or eating a little more fish, or skipping a meal, or not having a Coke, but it is so so much more. In my own life, the times I have realized how “weak” I am or how little “control” I actually have, have been in seemingly insignificant things–like giving up my favorite drink or comfort food or media device. It is incredibly humbling to realize that I can’t even easily take away a few “luxuries” or “distractions” for a few weeks. that my flesh is indeed weak, but my Savior is strong.
The flip side of the sacrifice, or fast, is that in taking away some of the distractions around us, we become more spiritually sensitive. We remove the fog around us to see Christ more clearly. We take away the things we cling too and we are drawn to cling more closely to Christ. When this is done as a community of believers, imagine the possibilities of being used and in tune with Christ!
Lent also isn’t just a time of giving things up, but also adding to. Adding to the gifts you give, time in the Word, time spent in fellowship with others, time spent serving. I’m so excited this year because my church has plunged into a 40 Days in the Word, and I long to see what God does to move the hearts of His church.
Lent is such a beautiful time. A time of preparation and seeking. A time of worship and repentance. A time to be moved and used by the One who sacrificed ALL for the ones he loves. Lent is a time for ALL believers to seek the face of the Savior, and long for the promise of His return!