Why Lent Isn’t Just For Catholics
Growing up in the church I was familiar with Lent but it wasn’t until I got married that I was introduced to the profound importance of this time of the year. Of course, I knew that Lent was a period of time before Easter when we focused on the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us all those many years ago but I was missing the steps to getting myself prepared for Easter. In my definition that is what Lent is all about. The purpose of this post is to recognize what the meaning of Lent is and to look at ways that we all can prepare for the upcoming Easter season.
If you are like me, you probably have a lot of questions about what Lent really is and why it should be important to believers. There are many great articles that explain every detail of Lent and the theology behind it. I would encourage you to seek some of those articles out if you are interested but for the purpose of this post, I will give an overview. The Lent season starts on Ash Wednesday but many began the celebration the day before on Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is traditionally a day when they would cook all of the foods that they would be abstaining from during the period of Lent so it would not go to waste. In today’s age, it has become more of a day of indulging in what you plan to give up or a good excuse to eat lots of sweets. The day following is Ash Wednesday the first formal day of Lent which is 46 days before Easter or 40 days if you don’t count the Sundays. Ash Wednesday is a time when many believers attend service and receive a cross or smudge of ash upon their forehead. This is a recognition of our original sin that separated us from the Lord. Genesis 3:19 says, “You shall have to sweat to eat your bread until the day when you return to the earth, for from it you were drawn, You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” This is a reminder that we are God’s creation and we had sinned and needed a savior to bring us back to God. The 40 days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Matthew 4:1-11 speaks of this;
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
As we can see in the passage Jesus was tempted by food, pride, and power. These are all things that the devil uses to tempt us as well. The Lenten season is a reminder of the temptations we face because of our sins and the process of repentance followed by thanksgiving to Jesus for His sacrifice.
While others denominations also celebrate Lent, I do not have experience in their practices and I can only speak to what I myself have been a part of. If you are experienced Lent in your church and would like to share those experiences please leave a comment or send us your story to our email (email@example.com). I myself have had the opportunity to experience Lent in the Baptist church, nondenominational church, and now the Catholic church. Each experience can and will vary based on the specific church you are involved in. What I have found is that the Baptist and Nondenominational churches I was a part of, that they put a lot less focus on the preparation leading up to Easter and focused almost solely on Easter as a whole. While I agree that Easter is obviously the climax and the whole reason for the season I do find it interesting that they did not speak much to the preparation of a believer's body, mind, and soul for this life-altering event. My experience in the Catholic church with Lent has been vastly different than those previous experiences. The Catholic church highly prioritizes preparing one's body, mind, and soul for the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice. To do this the church recognizes three main ways of preparing. First is prayer, which aims to refocus our minds back on the communication we have with the Lord. This is also my main focus during this year’s Lent, I plan to spend more time in prayer and thanksgiving and less time doing useless things such as watching TV or scrolling on my phone. Second is fasting, which is an act of denying yourself a specific type of food or drink typically a sweet or treat. This is also celebrated by earring smaller portions on specific days and abstaining from meat products on Fridays. The last way to celebrate lent is almsgiving, which is to give one's time, talent, or money to those in need.
I believe that each of these focuses is extremely important in itself but all together help us prepare for the coming of the Lord. I am not asking you to dive fully into all of the traditions of Lent but I do urge you to think about how you are preparing for Easter. Take a look beyond the Easter season and ask yourself how are you preparing for the return of Christ Jesus one day. What would you change in your life if you knew that Jesus was returning to Earth in 40 days?