In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Today is the first day of Lent (the 40 days before Easter). It snuck up on me. I’ll admit that growing up, we never observed Lent. It wasn’t part of our tradition, so I never gave it any thought. I’ve had a few friends who came to work with smudges on their heads over the years, but it never occurred to me that I should be interested in liturgy.
But recently the idea of observing Lent has become more attractive to me. In part, the significance of Easter to the Christian faith is so profound that it seems wrong to only observe a single day. Especially when that day often is more about bunnies, eggs, and chocolate (I’ll admit, I do like a good chocolate bunny!), it seems to me that it doesn’t have the gravity, the sanctity, the holiness that it deserves.
Last year was my first foray into observing Lent, but I went after it half-heartedly. I noticed my pants getting snug in the early spring (late winter?) and took advantage of the fact that Lent had begun to begin a fast from my favorite calorically-enhanced beverages. It really was more about weight (waist) than faith, but nevertheless, I learned how much power my not-quite-addictions had over me. They called strongly to me for quite some time, until new habits were firmly established.
So this year, I’m taking another step, and choosing a fast for the sake of the fast (although my waist will likely benefit). Now, fasting is an area that I really don’t understand. I’ve done food fasts, but usually because someone else asked me to join one. I can’t say that I observed any particular sense of being closer to God during those times. I have instituted TV fasts in my house, typically when I felt the “boob tube” had become too dominant in our family’s lifestyle. And I’ve fasted from other things (including my computer) whenever it seems that my addictive nature is flaring.
What I do find in fasting is that the flesh cries out for what it used to have. Sometimes the attraction is almost palpable. It takes supreme effort at times to deny the flesh and hold to the fast.
What I find most amazing about Jesus’ life on earth was that it was basically a 33-year fast. He set aside the glory of heaven and lived as a humble servant all of his life. And don’t kid yourself that he didn’t want to do other that what he did. Just look at his prayer in the garden… “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In all things, Jesus is an example to us of faith and dependence on God.
So if I can set aside one or more of my passions or time wasters for 40 days in preparation of the celebration of the cornerstone of history, it seems a small price to pay, and a small gift to give in comparison to what has already been given to me. Will you join me? Prepare your hearts to celebrate the resurrection of our King!