Posted on: February 15, 2023 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By Kelly Wright

Up until a few years, Lent was a mystery to me.

I knew Lent had something to do with giving up pleasures like Diet Coke or chocolate or distractions like social media or screen time. I knew Christians participated in Lent during a time before Easter, but I really had no clue what was with Lent.

My curiosity found that Lent was established to draw us back to tangible practices to remember and celebrate the life and death of Christ. The word Lent, meaning length, denoted springtime in the original context, and was a period set aside for praying and fasting before the Easter celebration. Presently, in western Christianity, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 22 this year, and lasts for the six weeks or approximately 40 days leading to Easter.

So that’s the history that satisfied my curiosity, but as I considered the practice of Lent, I noticed a stirring in my heart, an invitation.

I noticed a longing to experience the sacred season of Lent and Easter just as I had loved the sacred season of Advent and Christmas. I loved the extended season instead of just a day of celebration. Participating in Lent extenuated my joy and anticipation of Easter because it offers an extended time to connect with Jesus in a deeper way.

You see, the forty days of Lent were set aside in the remembrance of the forty days Jesus spent alone in the desert. In Matthew 4, we see that after Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:2 says, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”

Symbolically, we are invited to join with Jesus in a place of solitude and fasting from something. During our days of fasting, we make space for practices that sharpen our spiritual awareness and open us to God.

I usually give up social media during Lent. In times that I would have been scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instead, I had space (and a surprising amount of space I might add) for spiritual practices such as reading the Bible, doing a daily devotion for Lent, praying, serving others, and silence (both mentally and physically). It was both challenging and delightful!

Thinking about what to give up for Lent can begin by asking yourself these questions:

Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself?

What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t?

Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil, we too need to make space for a deeper awareness of our temptations. To help narrow our focus, it is helpful to look at the three temptations Jesus faced in the desert. In a deep dive into these three temptations, Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, sums them up in these three categories:

Temptation 1: Satan tempted Jesus to turn bread out of stones to relieve his hunger. Temptations that focus on performance or “I am What I Do”– How easily earthly success tempts us to find our worth and value outside of God’s inexhaustible, free love for Him in Christ

Temptation 2: Satan tempts Jesus to leap from a pinnacle and rely on angels to break his fall. Temptations that focus on possessions or “I am What I Have” – Depending on material possessions to define who I am.

Temptation 3: Satan tempts Jesus to kneel before him in return for all the kingdoms of the world. Temptations that focus on popularity or “I am What Others Think of Me” – True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes because we know we are loveable and good enough.

As you consider these three categories of temptations, are any or all these challenges for you? I know they are for me.

The gift of Lent is a gift of making space for this sacred season that allows us to see where we are getting hung up and where God is wanting instead to offer freedom. We need the extended time of Lent to explore what’s underneath our drive to perform, why we desire more when we have what we need, and why we are dependent on what others think of us.

 May God bless you this Lenten season with a deeper awareness of His great love and care for you.

If you work at VU, we invite you to join us on Ash Wednesday, which is February 22, for an Ash Wednesday experience. It will be a time of reflection and scripture reading as we begin the Lent season together. Visit VU Central to learn more and RSVP.

We also have a free devotional for VU employees. Please email Walt Walton to get your copy (while supplies last).

Finally, mark your calendar for a Good Friday service on Friday, April 7.


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