Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stepping Into Lent

Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent, believe, and walk in the way of Christ.

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Today is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the 40 days in the Christian community known as Lent. 

Many throughout the world will set aside time today to attend church services and have ashes placed upon their foreheads in the sign of the cross by priests, pastors, ministers or religious laypeople; most will fast from all but one meal, and give up something they enjoy or of value for the next 40 days as a sign of self-denial and sacrifice. Fish, veggie dishes, fruit platters and other meatless fare will be the order of the day today and for the next 7 Fridays.

However, some Christian denominations don’t recognize Lent at all, so for them, this won’t be considered a day of any special significance.  

And, interestingly enough, there is no mention of Lent in the Bible. The closest thing to it that I can see, in my opinion anyway, is Jesus’ being led away into the wilderness for 40 days by the Holy Spirit, in preparation for His ministry. He had nothing to eat or drink. It was a time of cleansing, of purifying – physically, as well as spiritually.

Save for the moments Satan appeared before a hungry and humbled Jesus to tempt Him, and when angels came to minister to Jesus after Satan took off in a huff, He seemed to be all alone.

Yet nowhere do I read or get the sense that God abandoned His Son in that wilderness.  Perhaps Jesus was brought to this barren and solitary place, where all distractions were removed from Him, not only to be tested, but also in order for Him to be able to spend uninterrupted time with the Father in conversation and reflection, in preparation for what was to come. The joys and the sorrows.

Lent to me, then, is to be a season of sincere reflection and preparation for those of us who call Christ our Lord and our Savior. A season where we make it a point to rest and spend time conversing with Jesus, free of distractions.  A season where we walk along life’s path, content to be closely yoked with Him in service as He teaches us His unforced rhythms of grace.  A season of temptation and testing.  

A season where we reflect on and acknowledge our rebellious and sinful nature and desire to repent of it.  A season of longing for our inner transformation, hungering and thirsting to be like this humble and obedient Servant King.  A season of preparing ourselves for whatever plans the Father has for us in the near or distant future. The joys and the sorrows.

Therefore, in my honest and humble opinion, the partaking of Lent should not be entered into lightly and frivolously, but intentionally and seriously. There’s no room for showboating or bandwagon mentality here. It shouldn’t be performance driven nor be done out of guilt, shame or family tradition.

And heaven forbid it should be seen as or turned into a kickstart for a new diet program or part of a health plan designed to get your body swimsuit ready, as I heard being discussed at great length on a local TV news show this morning.

Jesus was very clear about His loathing of acts being done for appearances sake, for the approval and praise of man, or done out of routine obligation or tradition. His strongest warnings were always towards the religious elite (Pharisees and teachers of the Law), whose motives didn’t line up with their actions (check out Matthew 23:13-36 for some examples of this and Jesus' words to these folks).  

A woman with whom I attend a Bible study on the book of Matthew said recently that Jesus was all about "living out the ‘heart of the Law,’ whereas the Pharisees had made it all about living out ‘the letter of the Law'."
Wise and truth-filled words indeed.

Now, PLEASE hear me and believe me when I say that I AM NOT criticizing anyone who has ever made the decision to give up something – coffee, chocolate, junk food, social media, television, meats, dairy products, etc. – during the Lenten season (been there, done that many a time). 

Neither am I pooh-poohing  someone’s involvement  in a Lenten challenge, like reading through the New Testament in 40 days (and believe it or get outta here, I'm actually taking this one on this year).

What I AM saying is we need to be so very mindful of our motives for doing so.  We should always ask ourselves:

"Why am I doing what I'm doing?"

"Who am I seeking to please?"

And if you’re not sure why – ask God:
“Is this what You want me to do, Lord?"

"Is this sacrificial offering pleasing to You?  Or are You looking for something else from me?"

"What do YOU want me to do or to refrain from doing?”

Can I tell you how hard I struggled this year to step in and find my place among those taking this always challenging Lenten journey, asking myself AND God these very same questions?

And, not surprisingly, His answers were revealed to me within the pages of Scripture, God's very Word to us:

What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
                 Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
 to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the Lord has told you
what is good, and this is what
he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micha 6:6-8, NLT

And, when you have some time, check out Isaiah 58 in its entirety, for you may just find the answers to your questions there. 

The grace and peace of God be with you this day and always, my friends. 


  1. Wise words, Pam. Our Lord is always concerned about the one thing: Motive. Why are we doing what we do. SO much so in fact that He was willing to give all to conform our whys to His whys. So yes, I agree with your words. Now that should not be surprising. Bless you during this beautiful season, I am looking forward to this as it brings back my days of newborn baby in Him when He so graciously interrupted my life as well as my dear best friend at the time...and we have been on a transforming journey since. In His Grace, Dawn

    1. Thanks for your kind words and your blessing, my friend. I love how you referred to Lent as a 'beautiful season.' I grew up being reminded of just how somber it was, complete with starkly adorned altars. I plan on exchanging that memory with this new vision. A beautiful season indeed. Thanks, Dawn. :)


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