Ash Wednesday is a little over a week away, and I can’t wait. I’m growing to LOVE Lent—and though you may know me as the wife of an Anglican priest, there’s still a little Baptist girl inside the woman, so that’s no light statement I toss off. But after 15 years of following the ancient cycle of the liturgical seasons—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time—I do look forward almost especially to Lent.
Perhaps it’s because I am so practical by nature, and Lent is such a helpful season. As I say that, though, I think that the themes of all the seasons are helpful in different ways. It’s as if each season points a spotlight on a different Christian virtue. Advent highlights patience; Christmas, joy; Easter, salvation, and so on. But in Lent, the spotlight is on sin, repentance, and resisting temptation. How practical is that?
You see, I’m a sinner. A really bad one. Oh, if you met me, it wouldn’t be that obvious immediately. But my family could tell you how impatient, how critical, how angry and unloving I can be. My friends have seen my judgmental side, and how focused on my own agenda I can be. And God knows the sinful attitudes of my thought life and how they affect my words and actions.
I thank God for confession and forgiveness and the reconciliation they bring. I am so thankful for love, which covers a multitude of sins, and that despite my sinfulness, I have close, loving relationships with my husband and children. I am so thankful for God’s grace.
BUT I WANT TO DO BETTER! I WANT TO SIN LESS!(I am reminded of a friend who asked his nine or ten year old daughter what she had given up for Lent. "Well," she sighed, "I tried giving up sin. But I couldn't do it. So I guess I'm switching to chocolate.")
And that’s how Lent helps me. Lent is a time set aside to deal with sin. When we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior, He forgives all our sins—but we don’t cease being sinners. Even the Apostle Paul, that spiritual and theological giant, still wrestled with sin: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Looks like I’m in good company--and you are too! Because let’s face it: We all sin and fall short.
Thankfully there is forgiveness and grace available to us all year round. But Lent offers practical disciplines and prayerful emphases that help us as we wage war against sin. As Christ was put to death, effectively taking our sins with him, that He might rise in glory, unblemished and unstained by sin—so we too, during Lent, attempt to put to death a little more of that sinful nature, that we may rise above it, with Christ, during Easter!
Lent helps me love Easter more, too. I used to feel guilty because I enjoyed Christmas as a holiday more than I did Easter. But then I realized that I anticipated Christmas for at least a month, while Easter just sort of—boom!—appeared on the calendar. The 40 days of Lent prepare us for Easter. Lent is one long Friiiiiiiiiiiday. But as Tony Campolo has famously quoted a black pastor, “It’s Friiiiiiiiiiday. But SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”
So that’s why I love Lent. I hope you do or will too, because I’m going to be blogging about it!