Tuesday, we will feast in preparation for Lent. My husband and I will go get malasadas and my Michigan family will eat pączkis. We will reflect on the goodness of the Lord and savor each bite of the feast before the fast.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Wednesday, we will listen at these words, remember our mortality, and go forth remembering that we are people of the cross.
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.
Traditionally, that is what this season is focused around. We are mortal. Our lives will pass along and will be forgotten. But we are a redeemed people. Walking toward the Cross and all that it entails. We are giving up our lives and laying them down.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26, ESV
In 40 days, the fast will be over and we will feast, celebrating our life. But first, there is death. Beautiful, life-giving death. So for these 40 days, let us die to self to honor that death and embrace the life to come.
Because what would the next 40 days look like if, instead of sitting with Netflix, you sat with the women down the street, returning home to an empty house? If instead of filling our plates, we filled the lives of those in need? If instead of Pinterest, we took a new interest in the One pursuing our hearts and spent some down on our knees in prayers.
Set an intention today to pray throughout this season. It might be something small but the smallest habits, brushing our teeth, making our coffee, these moments have the biggest impacts on our day.
Prayer is one of the disciplines of grace I struggle with greatly. I’m so grateful for the years Sunday school teaches pouring into me reminders that I could talk to God about anything, no matter where I was. I know God is listening, even if I just utter the short petition, “Lord, have mercy.” While I wouldn’t trade this for anything, I realize now that I also need to practice prayer just like anything else. Adoration . . . Confession . . . Petitions . . . Thanksgiving . . . all of these must be active aspects of my prayer life. This season, I’m going to strive for balance in this area.
Food is dear to me. My family has a long history of delicious, buttery recipes. Our holidays and celebrations revolve around food and an inordinate part of my day is spent thinking about what I will eat.
When Christ underwent His temptation, we were reminded that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word of God. Fasting reminds us of this. Food, as delicious as it is, does not sustain us.
I’m not quite sure what form my fasting will take this Lent. It may be meals, or certain types of food. It may be Netflix or another time-consuming activity. No matter the form, it should be a sacrifice. Because I am not seeking temporary fulfillment but the nourishing sustenance of the Bread of Life.
Christian charity is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I am fine with writing a check for an allotted amount of my income to the church or another charity but to walk beside those in need, to give when it hurts? That demands something too great of me.
Lent is a time to feel that demand. Sitting around the fire with Water Lily last week was no coincidence. The poor, the needy, they are all around us. We are in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since World War 2. We do not have to look far to see the mark sin has left on this world, the world we are called to walk into as a Light in Darkness. We are the Body of Christ, and we must minister to those in need, giving of ourselves as He Himself did on the cross.
I am still praying about what intentional living charitably will look like for me this Lent. It might be a special spending freeze. It might mean donating my time or opening up my home. No matter the form, it will require opening my heart and pouring it out for the needs of others.
So these days, the forty days we travel to that fateful, blessed day on Calvary, they will demand every bit of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. On that day, Christ reached into every bit of our hurt and brokenness to offer His body and blood as a salve for our weary souls. So press on, Christian soldier.
If you are looking for resources on the purpose of Lent and the liturgical calendar in general, I recommend checking out Robert Webber’s book Ancient-Future Time and Ann Voskamp’s “Trail to the Tree” 40 day devotional.
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