From Lent, 2009, when asked what Lent means to me:
I have to admit, I started participating in Lent because my parents do. For example, my dad always gives up coffee. I think I started by giving up soda or candy.
As I got a little older (high school), I tried to get more creative with my fasting, making it something that really put me in competition with myself if that makes sense. My freshman year of high school I cared a lot about looks so I decided to give up looking in a mirror (and if I did my hair, not to ask if it looked ok) in an attempt to make a stab at this feeling that was getting overwhelming.
Since then I’ve tried to find the something that was getting fed in me that I shouldn’t have been feeding. And then starve it during Lent. I guess that’s what Lent has become for me, a time to start to change. Not necessarily a time of “giving up” in the sense of “giving up for a time” but giving up something so that I can release it completely. (Although I’ll be the first to admit it’s been a long time since I’ve fasted some sort of food… I know a lot of people do this in their spiritual lives, I just haven’t been led to yet. To most people, I think Lent is for fasting in that sense.)
Yet it still is an immense time of leaning into God. This year, for example, I am giving up negative thinking about my body. I feel like this will be a big chance for me to grow into God’s Beauty rather than into my own idea of beauty. In trying to see myself with His eyes and not my own, every day; this involves more prayer and more focus on Him. That’s what Lent is also about for me, remembering. It’s a time I can really take to refocus and recenter my life. It’s a cool time because it ends with Easter and the reminder that MY GOD REIGNS.
Anyway, it’s Perfect that you asked me to explain what Lent is to me. A few days ago I realized I hadn’t thought about what to give up for Lent and prayed about what I should give up and also asked to know why I personally give things up for Lent because I felt like I had forgotten just exactly why I participate. Or I had never really defined it in words by writing it down, looking back over my life. So thank you for being open to being Used.
It also worked out (I’ve been reading the Bible straight through since July 7th, a little every morning.) that this morning I read Luke 4:1-13 (and 14). Jesus being tempted by the devil. The first three verses really struck me, and I thought, “How Perfect that today is that start of Lent and I’m reading this.” His timing really is Perfect.
Ok, first, Jesus is taken into the desert by the Holy Spirit. Lent is a desert in the senses that 1) you make a part of you arid by not watering it and 2) it is a time and a place God gives you to get closer to Him. But it also has to be something that the Spirit guides you to do. Some years I didn’t participate because I wasn’t led to (at least, I don’t think I was… and I think this is because my heart wasn’t right at the time or He knew I wouldn’t have done it with the right intention (ie getting closer to Him)). It really has to be us in line with God’s will. That’s why I’ve started asking Him what I should give up for Lent instead of just trying to come up with something on my own.
Second, Jesus didn’t eat anything during those 40 days. He starved a part of himself, the human part (which wasn’t a part at all, it was all of him). It reminded me though, that whatever I give up for Lent… I have to starve it completely. It’s not written in Luke 4 but I’d be pretty willing to bet that Jesus prayed a lot to his Father a lot during this time, leaning on the strength He got from that relationship rather than feeding the hunger that got harder and harder to endure.
Third, at the end of it all, Jesus is hungry and the devil knows it. There is a hole where the old used to be, and satan tries to tempt Jesus to fill this void with the exact same stuff he used to fill it with. This is a tough temptation to overcome, just reverting back to old ways. Lent, then, becomes a chance to really use what you’re fasting from to deepen your relationship with God and in so doing become more of who you are meant to become in Him.
I added verse 14 to the text I read (the first verse of the next section). Lent is not a time completely isolated in itself but a time, a season, that then leads to another season. Jesus is covered in the power of the Spirit (literal translation of my French version) and starts His ministry. I don’t know what your or my next season will be, but I know I am trying to be open to where God wants to take me next, after I realize (and learn to know and dwell/rejoice in the fact) that I can live without feeding a certain part of myself.
So there are my 6am-hour thoughts for you (seriously, I’ve written all this in the 6 o’clock hour this morning). They may not be clear but thank you for being the opportunity I was given to define this for myself.