What is Lent?
On Wednesday, March 1, millions of people around the world went to a church service to start off the season of Lent. Ashes from palm branches were placed on their foreheads as a sign of remorse, repentance, and mourning. Lent is a tradition that mirrors the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness; an event written about in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
But what is lent? For most people, all that they know about lent is that it starts on Ash Wednesday, ends on Easter and you give something up. Lent, even though those are true statements, is far more than just giving something up for 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Lent is a time for reenergizing one’s faith, about questioning where one’s time is being occupied and reconnecting with Jesus.
Lent can sometimes look like giving something up, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that one action. Lent can also take the form of taking on a new task. Giving up coke, social media, and chocolate can be one way that people participate in Lent. While others take the time to volunteer at organizations, read scripture or even make time to let people know they are appreciated.
The importance is not put on the action, it’s the mentality behind it. The action is supposed to be a way to connect with Jesus. Instead of drinking coke, one could use the money they would have spent to buy the coke and give it to a charity or show an act of kindness by buying their friend a coke. Instead of spending an hour at night before bed on social media, use that hour during the day and volunteer at a local nonprofit organization. These actions help to get people into the mindset of being like Jesus.
The other part of Lent is that it prepares people for the rest of the year. There is an old saying that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something you will be an expert. The idea here is that if you consistently do something you are going to get better at that something. By staying focused throughout the entire Lent season, habits are being built. Habits of getting into the word of God daily, of complementing people so they know they are appreciated, and by giving your time to things other than yourself. These habits make people more like Jesus.
Lent is a season of recentering one’s faith. It allows for people to put away distractions and take the time to seriously try to build up their faith without the distraction of something they hold dear. It allows people to start new habits that will grow their faith that will hopefully last longer than just Easter Sunday.