This year I almost missed Lent. Having worked at a church that follows the liturgical calendar for the last four years and now not being connected there I almost forgot about it completely. In years past I have been a smarty pants and have said things like, “I’m giving up Lent for Lent” but the last two years I practiced the tradition of giving something up for forty days and have received much spiritual reward for it. The thing that I personally struggle with the most is that I’m not a very religious person and I tend to dismiss religious holidays altogether as fun or interesting but of no spiritual value.
Here’s what I’ve learned: It’s all about motives. When we approach a religious ritual out of habit or just because it is what we have always done we lose any opportunity to really connect with God. However, when our motives are right we can really take advantage of an opportunity to deepen our Christ-connection. That is the beauty of Lent; a true opportunity to deny oneself in order to better focus our deeper and more real need for Christ.
I have found that some of my very best times of prayer have come through fasting or times of sacrifice and I do not feel that it is simply because God wanted that sacrifice, but because He wanted the right motives in my heart.
Here is my warning to those of you who are practicing any kind of Lenten fast. If you are giving up chocolate, fatty foods, or the like, make sure your real motive isn’t to lose weight or get in shape. Our sacrifice to God should never have hidden motives to benefit ourselves. That is exactly the wrong motive and you’d be better off to not practice Lent at all.
Also, here is a thought for those of you who don’t practice Lent. Could you be missing an opportunity to deepen your life in Christ? The Lenten season is at a perfect time to prepare yourself for the celebration and reminder of Jesus’ victory over death!