March 5 marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I don’t know about you, but every year I seem to stumble into Lent with all of my good intentions, my desire to grow closer to the Lord and my grandiose ideas of what I will give up and take on for forty days.
And then I get distracted. I start to fail. I stumble right on my face.
I tell myself that I do not really have to practice self-denial during Lent. It is optional as a Presbyterian anyway. Fasting or taking on a new spiritual discipline will not change my beliefs as a Christian...so why do it at all?!
Satan whispers. I listen.
He wins. I loose.
So how do I approach Lent this year? Will this be a year of growth or a year of failure?
Lent is intended to be a season of preparedness for Easter. It is a time to repent, to practice spiritual discipline and reflect on the sacrifices that our Lord made for us in His life, His death and His resurrection.
Yet somehow I lose that focus. I make it more about me. More about how I can make myself better by taking on more. Or giving up more. Or being more.
I miss the point.
Lent is not a spiritual requirement. The Bible does not even specifically mention Lent. But it does talk of spiritual repentance, mourning and sacrifice. In the New Testament we see a shift in which fasting becomes a way to intensify self-examination and prayer.
Intensify. That is a heavy action to willingly take on.
Even Jesus needed time to fast and pray. Jesus needed to intensify HIS dependence on God. He needed a re-focus, preparedness. How humbling; even Jesus needed to grow in His dependence on God.
In Matthew 4 Jesus went into the dessert for 40 days to fast and pray. He was tempted. Really tempted. As His hunger grew, Satan attacked. Yet Jesus continually fought back his tempter by clinging to His faith in God and the Word.
Instead of come down on himself for not being stronger, he turned to God for His strength. He sought guidance and wisdom from the only One who could offer it.
So maybe my approach to Lent has been all-wrong. Instead of going into the forty days expecting myself to be more I need to know that I am less.
I will fail, I will be tempted, I will stumble. It is all part of the preparedness that has me relying less on ME and more on my GOD. Temptation will come and I will face it for I will depend on God.
As I spend the next few weeks praying and asking The Lord to guide me in my Lenten fasting this year I do know one thing that will be different. This Lent I will not be ME-centered but will be GOD-centered.
About the Author:
Jennifer Ragazzo is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and lives in Tatamy with her three children and husband of fifteen years. She holds a BA in Psychology and an ED.M in Elementary Education and is currently pursuing her passion for ministering through her writing. You can check out more of her writing on her personal blog at http://asoulfullifebyjen.blogspot.com/.