Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lenten Thoughts (first published in Feb. 2010)

I am not Catholic. I am not even episcopal. In fact, I grew up about as far removed from that as one can get: charismatic non-denominational. Some would say Pentecostal, though I personally wouldn't use that moniker.

So, what in the world am I doing observing Lent? (Heck, I can't even decide whether it ought to be capitalized.) What is this hand-raising, church-dancing, tongues-praying girl doing giving up something for Lent?

I'll tell you: I find it good for my soul.

Having gone to a catholic high school, I have seen Lent observed in many forms. To be honest, most of the Catholics I went to school with were not exactly bastions of spirituality. There were a few who seemed to genuinely love Jesus, but for the most part, I saw people going through the motions of a ritual without giving it any spiritual meaning at all.

Can't have soda with lunch . . . it's Lent. No Now & Laters for me . . . I gave up candy for Lent. No chocolate, no fast food, no swearing . . . everyone seemed ready to sacrifice something for Lent. But why?

It seemed to me like most of them were doing it because they thought it would earn them favor with God. I believe strongly that I need not do anything to earn favor with God because Jesus Christ purchased that for me on the cross, and it is mine forever.

So why sacrifice for Lent?

David and I spent the past few years in a semi-liturgical church (PCA) after having both grown up non-denominational. While I certainly missed the freedom I find in musical worship at non-denominational churches, I felt like I experienced a spiritual grounding in my soul when observing a liturgical calendar.

There is something to be said for corporately acknowledging spiritual seasons. Together we turn our hearts toward celebrating the coming of the Messiah during Advent, and together we turn our hearts toward the anticipation of His resurrection at Easter. And we are reminded of the suffering that preceded it during Lent.

Christ did not reach the point of resurrection easily or without pain. He suffered in the desert. He suffered on the cross. How much sweeter is the victory of His resurrection after remembering the pain He endured to achieve it? How much more can I share in His suffering if I prayerfully make one small sacrifice, one exercise of physical discipline with the prayer that God will use it to minister to my soul.

Lent is observed during the forty days (excluding Sundays) prior to Easter and is meant to mirror the forty days Christ fasted in the wilderness. The Bible says we are called to "share in His sufferings," and I find Lent to be a tangible way to reflect on that.

I wanted to address this because I know that most of my friends and family - who constitute the majority of my readers - do not observe Lent. Some have asked me why I do, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject, elementary as they may be. Like I said, I'm not catholic, so I am not a Lenten expert, and if I've misstated anything I apologize to the Catholics whom I do know read my blog. This is my take on it, that's all.

My final thoughts: do I think observing Lent is necessary to know Christ? No. Do I think it will gain me favor with God? Not at all. Do I think it makes me a better Christian than someone else? Absolutely not.

Do I think God uses it to speak to my charismatic soul? Yes, yes, He does.