Raised in Southern Baptist churches, I never practiced Lent growing up. Why, I’m not exactly sure; perhaps we thought it was too “Catholic”–whatever that means. In college and beyond, I attended Ash Wednesday services and demystified the liturgy and practice of the Lenten season. I found deep intimacy and awe in humbly remembering that I come from dust and from dust I shall return. I learned that Easter isn’t just about Resurrection Sunday, but about the long road to Golgotha, and I didn’t want to rush past the painful period. I wanted to absorb more comprehension that Jesus gave up everything to come down here and sacrificed all for us:
“…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” Phil. 2
Some years I gave up chocolate or technology or other “vices”, but other times, I just added in the discipline of self-denial by being intentional with my time and attention. I knew that the other 320-something days of year I’d give myself too much liberty, relishing in comfort. But to me, something about Lent needed to be uncomfortable. Self-denial acknowledges my humble state and declares to my desires, “No, it’s not all about you and what you want.” It’s about Him. It’s about His Glory.
“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to Him.” ~Charles H. Spurgeon
At first, we’re tempted to concentrate on what we’ve given up or what isn’t available that normally is. I’d long for sugar or that tv show or the ability to numb out, but if anything, we need to be fully aware. We need to awaken to our slothful state of apathy and reconnect to purpose. Lent allows us to press the reset button on our spirits and say, “I am here for You, LORD, and You are my inspiration and joy.”
“To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In our American churches, we testify to God’s grace and mercy, clinging to His freedom without recognizing all that it cost to get us there. We think we as his servants should have it better than our Master did (John 15:20). We think giving up our amenities or conveniences for a few weeks equates great endurance. Few of us truly know what it is to bear the cross of Christ.
“Holiness is an unselfing of ourselves.” ~ Frederick W. Faber
“At each stage of [spiritual] growth, more self-denial is required, more painful blows to self, more reckless decision to serve the Lord Christ with consequent abandonment of one’s own life.” ~ Walter J. Chantry
This Lent choose to relinquish something temporal for something eternal. Deny the flesh and focus on the spirit.
Here are a few books I’ve read through that have encouraged my spirit toward Christ.
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
The Robe is actually fiction, but the narrative captures the incredible sacrifice Jesus made the impact of His death and resurrection had on the soldiers that crucified Him.
And The Angels Were Silent by Max Lucado
The next two books I haven’t gone through, but I have great respect and experience reading the authors.
Both are daily Scripture devotionals for the period of Lent.
This year a dear friend and I are exploring the daily Scripture reading for Lent from She Reads Truth.
I’m eager to see how God will draw me close this year. May He do the same with you.