A few days ago I saw on the High Calling website information about a Lenten devotional booklet ( http://www.thehighcalling.org/lent ) that can be downloaded or followed online. In the booklet Mark Roberts describes some of the things he finds Lent is and isn’t:
Lent is: (1) A six-week season in the Christian year prior to Easter…. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). (2) A time for spiritual growth… in the ancient church, Lent was a season for new Christians to be instructed for baptism and for believers caught in sin to focus on repentance. In time, all Christians came to see Lent as a time to be reminded of their need for forgiveness and to prepare spiritually for Easter. (3) A time to give something up, to add something new, or both. During Lent, many Christians choose to give up something they enjoy in order to focus more on God. Others add a spiritual discipline (like a special Bible study or feeding the hungry at a food shelter). Of course, some folks choose to give something up and to add something new. (4) A time of preparation. In Lent, we prepare for a deeper experience of God’s grace through the cross. We also ready our hearts for a more jubilant celebration of the resurrection and its promise of new life.
Lent is not: (1) A biblical requirement. (2) A way to earn more of God’s love and grace…. we must not think of Lent as a time to earn what has already been given to us in abundance. Rather, it is an opportunity to open our hearts to receive more of God’s grace, to grow in God’s love for us, and to share his grace and love with others.
Beyond being a time to give up something, Lent is a time to give more of ourselves to God in response to his giving of himself to us in Christ. This is only one person’s perspective on Lent but I think the description of Lent as, “… a time to give more of ourselves to God in response to his giving of himself to us in Christ” is worth keeping in mind and heart.
Roberts also offers this prayer of St. Richard of Chichester (and popularized in the musical Godsell) to take with us into Lent,
Thanks be to Thee,
my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits Thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults which Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
know Thee more clearly,
love Thee more dearly,
follow Thee more nearly,
day by day.
Might this be our prayer this Lenten season … and beyond?