As today is the first day of the Lenten season, I thought I would re-post some thoughts I had last year at this time:
Lent isn’t a tradition I grew up with. Several years ago, though, my husband and I decided to implement the practice with our family. The result has been a powerful time of preparation for the highlight of the Christian calendar: Easter weekend. My kids take this very seriously. They deliberate – sometimes for weeks – about what they believe would be the best thing for them to give up, what one thing they will miss, what favourite food or drink or activity will actually sting a little (or a lot) if it is removed from their lives. And once they have decided and Lent has begun, nothing can persuade them to partake of that thing. I have learned a lot about commitment from watching them.
The key is to think about why you are making the sacrifice. This is not a meritorious activity; no brownie points will be earned with God or placed on the scales to offset any accrued guilt. Neither is it in any way comparable to the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ.
It is, however, a grounding, a focal point. We live in a culture that does not value self-sacrifice or self-denial. If we want something, we just go to the refrigerator or to the store and get it. Giving up something that brings us pleasure has a way of drawing us back to that which we wish to focus on. When I reach for that thing that I have decided to give up and then remember I can’t have it, I stop and think about why, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for what Jesus was willing to give up for me.
I can’t grasp the magnitude of his sacrifice, but I can let the realization that he willingly suffered so that I could have hope and a future wash over me. I can fall to my knees in humility as the truth of that fills me fresh every morning. If a little self-denial can remove me from a world of noise and distraction and busyness and bring me to that place, even for a few minutes at a time, I will gladly participate in it.
I try to keep Christ’s sacrifice for me uppermost in my thoughts all year through, but the denial of something I enjoy somehow, miraculously, becomes something much more during this season: a tangible reminder to be grateful and to remember. And if such a miniscule sacrifice can bring to mind and heart a remembrance of the greatest sacrifice of all, it is truly a price worth paying.
Press on, my friends. Press on,