Lent, which begins this Wednesday, is a powerful and important season of the Christian year. Unfortunately, we tend to think of Lent only in negative terms. I know I catch myself slipping into that pattern, anyway. Lent has to do with fasting, and we talk a lot about making sacrifices—giving something up for Lent. It is a season of penitence and self-examination, and it begins with a liturgical contemplation of our mortality.
Good times, huh?
While Lent may not be fun, it is necessary, and there are other elements that can redeem it from the negative flavor it holds for many of us. For instance, Lent has from the earliest years of the church served as a time of preparation for baptism. Those who had committed themselves to following Christ spent the six weeks of Lent learning what that commitment really meant. The conclusion of that time of intensive preparation was the joyful celebration of baptism on Easter morning.
Another way to bring a positive meaning to our Lenten observance is a twist on the traditional idea of giving something up for Lent: taking something on for Lent. Instead of just giving up a habit or vice, try adding a virtue. This can take any number of forms. You may commit to writing an encouraging note to a different person every day of Lent. If you do not already practice the discipline of daily Bible reading, you may want to add that to your routine. Performing a small act of service every day, or participating in a more involved service project each week during Lent may be an idea to explore. You may want to invite a new person to church or Bible study each week of Lent. The options are only as limited as our imaginations, and the result may be that by the time Easter arrives we feel we have really accomplished something worthwhile. More important soulwork than just giving up chocolate for six weeks.
Whatever it may be, I encourage you to do something to reflect your commitment to becoming a more faithful disciple of Jesus during these forty days of preparation and reflection.