Lent and Ash Wednesday

Well, readers…we are entering my most favorite time of the year.  


That’s right.  This blogger absolutely, whole-heartedly loves Lent.  No, I am not talking about the stuff in your dryer.

If you think back to my post about Advent you will remember that the liturgical calendar as a whole celebrates and honors the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is the 40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday.  If you count it out, you actually get 46 days and that’s because each Sunday is like a mini Easter.  

During Lent, people often participate in fasting, praying, and almsgiving.  

When we fast, we are showing our reliance on God to meet our needs and to fulfill our desires.  Fasting is not just saying no to food, but removing your dependence on something that is not God.  When I am trying to decide what to fast, I always pray for God to make it abundantly clear what is keeping me from time with Him or what is constantly distracting me.  I have fasted a variety of things (ice cream, chocolate, buying stuff, and social media, to name a few), but the one thing they all have in common is that they pacified me when I could have turned to God to fulfill me.  Yes, it will feel inconvenient and hard, but it is GOOD for us to practice turning from the temporal to the eternal.

As Christ-followers, we are called to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) so why the focus on prayer during this time? Prayer involves speaking and listening so Lent is an excellent time to practice this habit.  Praying actually goes quite well with fasting because when you are struggling in your fast, it’s a perfect time to pray!  This blogger struggles with focus during prayer; my mind never wanders so much as when it is time to talk to Jesus.  It’s not my favorite thing about myself.  If you are like me, you may want to seek out a Lent study or devotional that includes a daily prayer.

Giving is something Christ-followers are known for and Lent is a great time to really exercise it!  This can look however you want it to look.  Some folks tie it in with their fasting: if they are fasting a particular food, they may donate items to a food bank; if they are not spending money, they may give over and above their tithe to a project in the community.  I like to do our giving as a whole family so we are going to have some “random acts of kindness” days where I am going to challenge my kids to do something kind for a sibling, a friend, or an adult.  What’s important is where your heart is in this giving.  It’s not just another to-do of Lent, but it points us back to what was given and sacrificed for us.     

Now, that was a lot of information if you are a first-time practitioner of Lent.  Here’s some good news: you get to have a mini Easter, a break from your fast, each week on Sunday.  Lent is 40 days because on each Sunday, you get to pause, relax, and reflect on the salvation that was given when Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to life…for us!

Ash Wednesday is this week and it is the kickoff for Lent.  In the Bible, we see ashes as a symbol of mourning and an outward expression of repentance.  Churches often hold a service on Ash Wednesday and during the service, the pastor or priest will rub ashes on the forehead of each person and recite “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  It reminds us that this life is fleeting.  It is yet another nudge for us to fix our eyes on what is eternal.  I love that Lent begins with this reminder and is completed at Easter, when we lift our voices to our Savior who is living; we get access to Him now and forever!

Sarah Ellen Edwards