What is Lent?

I asked myself… sounds strange for a pastor’s kid to think about this, and especially at the age of 40.  I used to think it was something mainly practiced in Catholicism… a very traditional act of spiritual symbolism, based solely on the fact that some of my co-workers showed up to work with ash on their forehead.   

But then with the dawn of Facebook, more and more people started to post status updates about what they were giving up for Lent… which in itself seemed even more strange to me, for many reasons.

image courtesy www.openbible.info
What Twitter users are giving up for Lent (2009, image courtesy http://www.openbible.info)

And so I started to wonder if certain church denominations recognize Lent while others do not.  That pondering was quickly followed by WHICH denominations didn’t recognize or practice Lent, and more importantly, I wanted to understand the WHY behind that decision.  At the same time I wondered why we, a family deeply rooted in all things church, never put ash on our foreheads and/or recognized Lent or practiced Lent as an important symbolic act.

And it dawned on me to look up our church beliefs on the matter.  I went to the website of the church denomination that I was raised in… and found this…

“The Assemblies of God do not normally observe the rituals of Lent for the 40 days before Easter. Lent is viewed in churches that observe the season as a time of spiritual preparation for Easter. Fasting, doing penance, and abstaining from worldly amusements are supposed to parallel the passion and suffering of Jesus prior to and during the Crucifixion. The Assemblies of God believes in fasting, repenting, and avoiding the temptations of worldly activity, but we believe self-denial and sacrifice should be a lifestyle rather than just a special effort once a year. Many Assemblies of God pastors participate in community Holy Week activities (the week before Easter) commemorating the events of the last week of Christ’s life.”

Now, THAT makes complete sense… as to why we did not practice this as a church, as a family, as part of our symbolic recognition of Christ’s sacrifice.

And today, I still stand by the decision made by the Assemblies of God, and other denominations around the world.  I stand by the decision to make my recognition of Christ’s sacrifice a daily practice, a lifestyle, rather than for the 40 days leading up to Easter.

While Lent sometimes looks like someone giving up caffeine, or chocolate, or bread, or social media or {plug in anything you feel guilty about}… my daily self-denial often takes the form of praying instead of reacting, worshiping instead of grumbling, encouraging instead of criticizing… I hope to show Christ’s love every day.  I hope those I speak to hear Christ through me.  I can only pray that others see Christ’s never-ending grace through my acceptance and love.

That said, I recognize that recognizing Lent is a very personal decision.  And I welcome any feedback as to what has occurred in the life of my readers because of this reflective time in their lives… I truly do.

For more helpful resources on Lent, see links below:

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4 thoughts on “What is Lent?

  1. exactly the way I think, Lori! But it’s the pastor’s responsibility to teach the flock well about incorporating those throughout the year!

    • Thanks for the response, Marie. I don’t even feel it’s the pastor’s responsibility, per se… we all read the same Bible and know what it means to be a servant and a worshipper of Christ. But our pastors can sure encourage us toward that end.

  2. Good to know, Lori. That makes sense to me to with being raised in the same manner. I am going to observe Lent for the first time this year because it makes sense with this year of my life. Call it a deepening or sharpening of focus, but it makes sense. The only thing I don’t understand is that people seem to talk a lot about what they are giving up. That seems like it should be a private and quiet decision, IMHO.

  3. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Heather. Yes, I agree with the sentiment that announcing “Hey everyone – I’m giving up THIS for Lent.” seems to be missng the point. I agree that it seems like it should be a quiet, personal, contemplative decision in one’s own heart… not for bragging about. I think those individuals have missed the point… IMHO. And suddenly, there’s a soap box. Do you see it? (grin)

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