As this Quaker girl continues on her Lenten journey, she still struggles with aspects of its meaning. What have I learned about Lent in my journey so far?
~ Lent means “springtime.”
~ It’s 40 days of fasting with reflection leading up to Easter (actually 46 days – more on that later).
~ Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending at 12:00 AM Easter Sunday.
~ Ash Wednesday services still confuse me but I am okay with that. As much as this Quaker girl can tell, it is a mourning service to kick off Lent with a visual reminder (ashes on the forehead) of mourning and repentance and a reminder of why we fast in the first place: remembering the sacrifice Jesus made and was.
~ I do not understand Fat Tuesday at all – it makes no sense to me to gorge and enjoy the riches of our lives before entering a time of remembrance. It reminds me of eating a ton before starting a diet – it does not support true changes in lifestyle, which is what needs to happen in order to truly stay fit. I relate this to being spiritually fit.
~ The 40 days of fasting corresponds to Jesus fasting 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4).
~ Lent actually begins 46 days before Easter, not 40. Why? Because Sundays are FEAST days – celebration days! Each Sunday we remember the resurrection of Jesus! I would like to see my life lived in the middle of the two extremes: fasting and feasting. I realize, however, there is benefit in observing both extremes for a specific purpose, like Lent.
~ People advertise what they are fasting from too much during Lent. Why does Matt. 6:16 not apply during Lent? “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (ESV).
~ Fasting should bring one to their knees before God and a significant increase in prayer time should be a result of the fast.
~ Lent is a time for me to prepare my heart for Easter.
~ It is also a time that my fasting might reveal deeper issues that need dealt with – like how Jesus was confronted and tempted in the wilderness.
~ “Lent gives me this gift: the deeper I know the pit of my sin, the deeper I’ll drink from the draughts of joy” (Voskamp, 2013).
Having known little about Lent, I have learned quite a bit! That being said, there is this part of me, (is it the Quaker part?) that struggles with becoming legalistic in the fast and being broken for Jesus.
So, I will continue on this journey and remember Paul’s words to the Galatians, “and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 NRSV). “I die every day!” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31 and for me that means making a decision each day that my life is not my own – Christ Jesus lives within me!
It means setting my mind on the things of the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, secure in my knowledge that I am a child of God!
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:5-14 NRSV)
I have asked God to reveal to me if there is a specific desire of the flesh I need to examine, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). I want to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh and will strive to daily to just that.
This goes beyond Lent but it is part of my journey so I am sharing it with you. Jesus paid the price but I still have a part to play – not by works but by giving up my life for His.
We are going to read through the Gospels in 40 days as a family. If you would like to join us in this challenge, let me know so we can pray for each other! In the youversion app, it is the "The 40-Day Gospel Reading Challenge. By the way, if you've made it this far... Lent begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.