I have decided to observe Lent this year. We did not observe Lent when I was growing up; my first introduction to Lent occurred in seminary. I had heard of it before then, but had no real understanding why it would be something I’d want to consider. The more I learned about it, the more it intrigued me.
Lent is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The purpose for this 40-day period is to prepare for the heart for Easter. Traditionally, Christians have observed this period through fasting and repentance. Usually we hear of the season of Lent in terms of “what are you giving up?” Some people give up a certain food, or TV, or Internet.
This year I have decided to fast from cable news and political commentary for 40 days. Those who know me well understand. I can spend endless hours flipping from one cable news channel to another, surfing through blogs from every side of the political argument, soaking in all my poor brain (and sometimes my blood pressure) can handle. I knew this was the right direction for me when I breathed a sigh of great relief after realizing the State of the Union address is happening before Lent so I won’t miss any of the action. To say I m a political junkie is indeed an understatement. I even started a separate blog as a platform to flesh out my political thoughts, such as they are. The thought of 40 days without hearing or reading the analysis on the latest drama in Congress makes me a little sad – although I may find my sanity in the midst of all of this…(wink).
So, why Lent? What is the focus for me this season?
Refocus my attention on the Lord
We are entering a time on the Christian calendar that, to me, is the most important. My anticipation for the Easter season grows year I walk with the Lord. During this time, we are remembering the purpose for which the Son of God came to the earth. To bear our sins on the cross. To die the death we deserve for our rebellion. To reconcile us to God. To rise again to give us new life. How glorious this gift of love; how deep the sacrifice. For me to sacrifice the hours I spend watching or reading politicians and pundits spar over the latest drama happening on Capitol Hill is minuscule compared to such a grand display of love and grace. The desire of the heart during Lent should be to focus our attention on our Lord, our Savior, our God.
It’s easy for me to become so entangled in the shenanigans in Washington that I lose sight of the Lord. There’s nothing wrong with being informed – in fact I firmly believe we need to be educated about the major issues of our day. But I have allowed this activity to take precious time away from other pursuits, in particular, my pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord. My desire is to spend this time turning my attention back to that pursuit…to turn my attention back to God.
To remind me Who’s really in charge
It’s easy for me to get caught up in the soap opera that is our government these days. Every time you turn around another crisis (usually centered on budget cuts and taxes) is on the horizon. Watching the violence that runs rampant in the streets of our cities from coast to coast makes my heart weep. Hearing the stories of those who are struggling to survive in an economy that is fighting to stay alive and actually grow can cause anxiety and worry to take my heart captive. Weather that has gone wild; countries terrorizing their citizens and conducting nuclear tests. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure. So much going on – so much that seems out of control.
Focusing on the cross reminds me of a few things. First, those things that ail us are beyond our ability to fix. No politician or cable news anchor and solve the problem. Grass roots efforts, as vital as they are, cannot erase the effects of such deep brokenness. They bring relief, but not ultimate relief. But – and there is always a glorious “but” with God – there is a hope that can sustain us no matter what we are facing personally, nationally or globally. The cross, the empty tomb – they shout hope to us. Our Lord has provided salvation for all who call on His name. And He is coming again to set all things right, to make all things new.
This hope is the anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:18); it keeps us steady in the midst of any storm we face. As I walk through this season of Lent, I want to redirect my focus back to this hope. It is the only firm and secure foundation upon which to stand.
Whether you choose to observe Lent or not, my prayer is that you would take time in the coming weeks to reflect upon the goodness of God, the salvation of God, and the hope that comes from resting in His promises.
Grace and peace…