Originally posted 28th February 2017 (but worth another read)!
At the annual “Christian Celebrations Do” (that exists only in my mind), people from many different church backgrounds are gathered for a spiritual catch-up. Lent is stood chatting with Good Friday and Easter Sunday about the debilitating symptoms of chocolate deprivation. He always seems like one of those celebrations that people are drawn to on a surface level but never really understand. A group has joined the conversation and are asking Lent’s advice about how to deal with caffeine withdrawal headaches. He appears to be humouring them, but I can tell there’s so much more he has to say.
I smile at him, trying to catch his attention, while simultaneously trying to avoid eye contact with Christmas who is obviously desperate to take up my entire evening. He smiles back. He feels like a bit of a mystery to me. I just don’t know that much about him even though I feel like I should. There are others at the event who seem to know Lent really well and I can tell they are keen to talk to him on a much deeper level. From what they are wearing they don’t appear to be from the same denomination as me. My lot are stood chatting to Advent about whether October really is too early to start Christmas carol playing.
Epiphany and All Soul’s Day are stood awkwardly at the edge of the room with no one to talk to and it’s tempting to go and chat with them. However, I know that I need to get better acquainted with Lent.
I walk across the room, politely interrupt Easter Sunday’s hilarious story about the Easter Bunny and introduce myself…
It might seem ridiculous, but that is how I’m viewing Lent this year, like an acquaintance that I’ve seen many times but would like a deeper friendship with. I want to know and understand more about this celebration that Christians have taken part in for hundreds of years.
In my searching I found a beautiful video by Steelehouse Media, that contains these words about Lent:
“A 40 day observance of Christ’s days in the desert.
We reflect on our own offence and the cost to the one who absolved us.
A time of temperance concludes in triumphal celebration.
A time for penance, reflection, self-denial and mourning.
To commit to Lent’s time honoured disciplines.
To bring into sharp focus the weight of what we wrought.
The price at which we’re bought and the victory His resurrection brought.
Lent calls us to the challenge of facing our frailties, embracing growth’s pain and shouldering our cross.”
If Lent is about “facing our frailties” then what do I need to do over the next forty days to “bring into sharp focus” the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. It is clear that whatever I do, it needs to cost me something. In some way, I need to share in that sacrifice so that I can obtain just the tiniest grasp of what it means to take up my cross and follow Jesus. Rather than just being a simple act of self-denial it also needs to help me grow and to move me closer to the character and heart of Jesus.
My Lent focus this year is silence and prayer. To some of you that may seem like the easy option compared to giving up Starbucks for forty days, but “being” instead of “doing” is extremely difficult for me.
For the next forty days, Lent and I are going to sit together quietly for at least twenty minutes a day. In the run up to Easter I will try to truly experience and deeply connect with the words of Philippians 3:10-11:
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead.”
I’M EXTENDING THE SAME CHALLENGE TO YOU...
If you were to meet Lent at the annual “Christian Celebrations Do” (that exists only in my mind) then, once the pleasantries were out of the way, where would the conversation with Lent lead you?
Would you talk about how you spend most of your time putting yourself down or apologising for existing? Psalm 139:14
Would you talk about how easily you lose it with people and how irritable you feel all the time? James 1:19-20
Would you talk about how you have let the opinions of others shape your life and how you have ignored God’s voice in the process? Colossians 3:23
Would you talk about how worry consumes you and how you second guess every possible outcome of every decision you make? Philippians 4:6-7
Would you talk about how you can go from one Sunday to the next without praying or even looking in your Bible? Psalm 119:105
Would you talk about the way that you gossip about people and pretend it’s out of love and concern for them? Ephesians 4:29
Would you talk about your tendency to complain about your circumstances? 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Would you talk about the pride that stops you asking for help when you need it? James 4:10
Would you talk about how important money is in your life? Hebrews 13:5
Or, like me, would you talk about how you never seem to be able to truly rest in God, while complaining you’re tired all the time? Matthew 11:28-30
To me, Lent is able to draw out the areas of our lives where growth is needed. This is not to make us feel ashamed, but to help us move towards the life Christ wants for us. As we spend time in the forty days of Lent we have an opportunity to, slowly but surely, move towards our own Easter Sunday.
“Lo, a new creation dawning!
Lo, I rise to life divine!
In my soul an Easter morning:
I am Christ’s and Christ is mine.”