Some people hear the word Lent and their Protestant shields go up, with phasers set on Reformation. They’re weary of Filet-O-Fish commercials and forehead ash residue. “We left that medieval stuff in the 1500’s, when Luther put that thing on the door!” But I assure you that Lent — the ancient practice of observing the 40+ days leading up to Resurrection Sunday — is an extraordinarily helpful practice for any follower of Christ, be they Catholic, Protestant, or even Anglican. Anglicanism, incidentally, is where I trace my roots as a Free Methodist –> Methodist –> Episcopal. John Wesley never turned in his Anglican badge. Actually, it was probably more of a vestment, or maybe some kind of sash.
In other words, I’m a protestant/Anglicanish follower of Jesus. I have faith in Christ — His life, death, and resurrection — and I try to pattern my life after His. And that, my friends, is where observing Lent is so very helpful. Let me try ‘n’ explain.
Lent remembers the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring hunger, thirst, and the “best” temptation, in that it came right from the “top” guy. When Jesus says “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” He speaks from the personal experience of self-denial and submission to His Father — to the point of His discomfort, suffering, and death. There is nothing false, no presumption, when it comes to Christ’s call to follow Him. We do as He says and as He does.
As it turns out, my life doesn’t give me the opportunity to head out to the wilderness for 40 days. I gotta work; we gotta get the kids to school. “Mr. Davidson, where have your children been and why are they wearing potato sacks?” isn’t a question satisfied by a harrowing story of spiritual pilgrimage, transformative as it might be. Maybe if we homeschooled… nah.
What can I do in these 40 days? I can say no to certain things: sugar, media, coffee. In saying “no”, I’m leaving room for a solid “yes” for spiritual transformation and better practices like prayer, serving others, going deeper. The idea that we can somehow prove our worthiness to God by suffering is absurd. Abandon that line of thinking. No, this is about taking control of my appetites and getting more serious about spiritual pilgrimage while still living like a responsible grown-up (or at least my best version of one).
There’s something meaningful about changing up our routine during for Lent. Anytime is good, but now is especially powerful because:
- Lent is observed worldwide. It may not be obvious where you work/learn, but observance of Lent aligns you with millions of Christ-followers. In other words: you’re not alone. You are part of the community of faith, with Jesus at our center.
- Lent models the way of Jesus in a tangible, life-changing way. Turning down a customary slice of pie might not be much, but, if done for the right reasons, the disruption can lead to openness, which then leads to a new kind of hunger beyond food.
- Easter will be more meaningful. The motif of death to self/life in Christ will find a pinnacle at the celebration of the Resurrection.
It’s not too late. We’re a few weeks out from Easter (April 21, 2019) but you can pick up a Lenten practice anytime. I’ve hinted at a few already. If you want more ideas, let’s chat. Start your research in prayer, simply asking the Lord for a chance to become more like Him. He loves that prayer, dangerous as it may be. I hereby invite you: Lent with me.
Let the comments begin: Do you practice Lent? Is it a new practice? Are you uncomfortable with it? Have you ever worn a potato sack? Discuss…