I first remember hearing of Lent in high school. A few of my friends were talking in the hallway about giving up things like chocolate and soda for the 40 days leading up to Easter. What a strange religious practice, I thought. Why would anyone willingly give up sweets? I did a little asking around and was SO relieved to discover that my non-denominational bible church didn’t observe such a tradition of sacrifice—praise the Lord for not having to give anything up. Raisinettes anyone?
It wasn’t until later in my twenties when this practice of Lent became not only meaningful to me but dare I say life saving. The end of this decade was overwhelming for me. The world and all its desires and pleasures were shooting off like firecrackers everywhere I turned. My dreams of a music career had become an idol and I’d put people so high on pedestals they had no choice but to fail me. I wanted to follow the Lord but I was a slave to whatever made me happy. I was literally gripped by desires I couldn’t get a hold of.
And then one February morning I walked into an historic home one block off Main Street in a town outside of Nashville. I sat down on an uncomfortable couch not because the cushions were stiff or sagging but because baring my soul is always awkward. Across from me was a gentle man, a wise believer. After sharing my heart and struggles with this near stranger he asked me one of the most anticlimactic questions a counselor has ever posed to me, “Have you practiced Lent before?”
My mind reeled back to high school and I thought—he’s gonna ask me to give up dessert for the next 40 days; I can’t believe I drove all the way down here for this.
“No sir, I haven’t”, I explained.
“Well, I think this could be a wonderful journey for you.”
Lent Creates Space for Something New to Grow
He then proceeded to explain that when we set something aside, whether food or drink that routinely comforts us, nightly television, social media habits, perhaps even a regular social gathering, we create space for something new to grow. I had never thought of it that way before. I didn’t just need a break from some unhealthy attachments and old patterns; I needed Jesus to plant something new in those places.Lent isn’t so much about what you give up; rather it’s about what will grow in its place.Click To Tweet
Lent Creates Space for Solitude
When I was in the Amazon jungle last week I heard a Brazilian missionary speak on the essential discipline of solitude. He likened our times of quiet before the Lord, in meditation on His Word and in prayer, to the tent Moses set up outside the camp. He asked us, “where is your tent”? Where is the place you do business with God that’s away from the hustle and bustle of distractions?
He then went onto say something I’m certain I’ll never forget. The context of his point centered around ministry leaders needing to hear from God for themselves through times of solitude but also for the sake of their people. He explained, “Our people don’t need to know what we already know, they need to know what we don’t know.”
In other words, the people we’re leading, anyone who depends on us really, need us to be sitting quietly before the Lord and learning of His heart so He can show us the things we don’t know. The 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter is an especially fitting time to begin this practice of solitude. We may just find out something we don’t already know.
Lent Primes us for a Special Focus on Christ
Because Lent leads up to the day when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection (as well as other special days we observe the week before Easter), we’re naturally thinking about Jesus already. Whether you’re going through a Lenten devotional book or methodically reading through one of the Gospels, this is the season to enjoy solitude with Christ. It’s the season to spend your newly acquired space that’s come as a result of something from which you’ve fasted with the person of Jesus.
Think of how much better we’ll know Him and appreciate Easter morning if we march toward this wonderful day having spent daily time dwelling on who He is and what He’s done for us.
Lent is a Personal Marker in our Journey
I would strongly recommend keeping a daily journal beginning with Ash Wednesday, March 1 through Easter, April 16th. The Lenten journey leading up to Easter can be one of the most precious and spiritually intimate seasons of our year if we’ll make a plan and stick to it. Let’s seize the opportunity to set something aside so the Lord can plant something of His own sowing in its place. Here are four things that will help us do just that:
- Ask the Lord what He wants you to lay aside and commit to fasting from it over the next 40 days.
- Ask the Lord to grow something new in the space you’ve created.
- Focus on the person of Jesus in your time of solitude through a Lenten devotional, reading through a Gospel, or through portions of the epistles that describe who He is and what He’s done.
- Journal your daily experience.
Let’s set some things aside so the Lord can do a new thing in our hearts. Let’s commit to some solitude. Let’s focus on Christ and write about it. Would love to know how this experience goes for you. May we see and hear much during this reflective season.