So. Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is typically observed by Catholic churches, as well as by some Protestant churches. It marks the 40 days prior to Easter, and is in observance of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert while being tempted. Being that the Lutheran church is probably one of the closest denominations to the Catholic church, Lent is definitely something that we grew up observing (my favorite way was with Holden Evening Prayer, which I really miss and wish I could find a church locally that does it--if you've never heard it, you can listen to the first part here).
Although it's typically observed in the Lutheran church with mid-week services, not all Lutherans give something up for Lent (J doesn't), but I usually do choose to give something up and the reasons are several-fold for me. First of all, it helps me realize how dependent and attached I am on worldly things. I mean, if Jesus were alive today and said, "Hey Mere--are you ready to leave everything behind and follow me?" I'd probably respond, "Heck yes! Hang on just a second and let me grab my camera to document this experience. And my phone to tweet about it. And my secret stash of chocolate...'cause I know it's gonna get hard and I'm gonna want to do some emotional eating!"
You know I'm poking a little fun at myself there, but there's a lot of truth in that too. For me, choosing to give something up for Lent (not because I have to, but because I want to) is a tangible reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for me. Every year, I find the experience of choosing to give something up along with meditating on the much greater sacrifice that Jesus made at Calvary to be a really good reminder in my own life. For me, it helps breathe life into the words that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
It isn't about an obligation to prove to God and to others that I deserve the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross. I don't deserve it, and no matter what I were to do, I won't ever deserve it...I love what Cynthia Heald said in Becoming A Woman of Simplicity--that the gospel of salvation is Jesus + Nothing. In other words, nothing else can be done to earn our salvation. As she said, "the doing has already been done."
I always struggle with how much to share about my own personal Lenten journey on my blog. About whether or not that experience is something to share with others or something that should be kept mostly between me and God. I don't agree with a few of the blog posts I've seen floating around that say that if you're giving something up for Lent, you shouldn't talk about it at all, with anyone. I believe that if you choose to observe Lent, and you get the most out of your Lenten journey by relying on God alone, that’s fine. But if someone else gets the most out of their Lenten journey by being encouraged by others that God has put in their lives, that’s okay too. We’re not called to one above the other Biblically. Honestly, I think that either one can just as easily turn into something that we do to puff ourselves up rather that something that's done to glorify and honor God.
Because really, it's for the glory of God. That should be the bottom line, right?
What do you think? Do you observe Lent? Do you choose to give something up?