Until about five or six year ago, the season of Lent passed for me without so much as a second thought. I'd never really heard about it or studies more of what it was. It seems like in the last few years, it is something that has gained more popularity (for lack of a better term) in evangelical churches in North America. And I think that's a good thing. (It's my opinion that it's a good thing. I know others disagree with that. I'm not here to argue whether we should or should not observe it.)
Growing up Good Friday and Easter were always important. I knew why we took the time we did on that weekend and I looked forward to them. But I often felt like they kind of snuck up on me. I'd be going through life and then all of a sudden it was Palm Sunday, which meant that the next weekend was Easter. I sometimes felt like I needed more time to reflect on things, and to find myself in a place where I could really celebrate the resurrection and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Maybe it's because I'm a reflective person by nature.
Then about five or six years ago, the young adults pastor at my church took one night that we were meeting to talk about Lent - what it was and why it could be important. It struck me as possibly being what I was looking for in the weeks leading up to Easter. It seems like we spend the weeks before Christmas preparing for it - in decorating and buying gifts, but also in church activities and programs that point us to the reason we, as followers of Christ, celebrate Christmas. So, I was kind of glad to know that there was something that was a part of church history that came in the weeks leading up to Easter.
When the young adults pastor at my church talked about it, he talked about the idea of Lent being a time of sacrifice. I know lots of people give up something for the time, with the purpose of going without that being to point them to and draw them to Christ. It's a time to slow down and reflect on what Jesus did in paying the ultimate sacrifice for our sin and conquering death.
Some years I have given things up. Other years I haven't. But I have made it a part of this time of year - these weeks leading up to Easter - to slow down and spend time focused on what was going on in the weeks leading to the cross for Jesus. For me, it's been about being intentional about that.
And I think that is the key - being intentional. Growing up in the church I could have told you the reason why we celebrate Easter at a young age. I knew the answers and I could rattle them off. Most of the time I appreciate that, but sometimes it means things don't penetrate my heart, unless I'm intentional.
What about you? How do you choose to observe or not observe Lent? What does it mean to you?