Today is the first day of Lent, which some call Ash Wednesday. If you grew up as I did, in a Lutheran church, you may have experienced going to church on Ash Wednesday and getting ashes applied to your forehead as the pastor said, “From ashes you came, and to ashes you will return.” My current church doesn’t give ashes, but we do have a service to commemorate the beginning of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is meant to be a time of reflecting on your sins, confessing them, and drawing close to God as Lent begins. Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, ending with Easter. Sundays don’t count as days of Lent, which makes it exactly 40 days.
40 days is usually a significant time period in the Bible. Look it up—Noah was in the ark 40 days, Moses was on the mountain 40 days. When 40 days is talked about, it’s usually a time of meditating or being with God in a special way. I try to honor this during Lent each year, but sometimes life gets in the way and I fall away from it in the middle. Just being honest here.
During Lent, mention is often made of the 40-day time period Jesus spent at the beginning of his ministry in the desert, fasting. At the end of this 40 days, Satan tempted Him and He, of course, successfully resisted and rebuked Satan. This connection between Lent and Jesus’ fasting may be why people often give up something for Lent.
My family growing up would give up meat for Lent some years. I don’t know why. My parents didn’t even realize that Sundays didn’t count, so we went 46 days or so eating mushroom soup with tuna and peas, tuna burgers and fish sticks and a few other things I can’t remember. I still can’t eat mushroom soup with tuna and peas today.
Sometimes we start to wonder why we follow the traditions and disciplines we do, and they start to lack real meaning. I encourage you to follow a Lenten discipline if it has meaning for you and you feel led to do it. If not, this time can still be meaningful as you consider the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for you and all of us.
If you’ve never followed a Lenten discipline or given it any special thought, it might be a good “next level” step to try to do so this year. Reading a devotional or scripture and spending a few minutes praying will give your day a spiritual focus and help you feel closer to God.
Lent may not be the most joyful season of the church year, but it can be tremendously meaningful to spend special time with God and prepare your heart for the joy that is coming. Please share your comments or memories of past Lenten experiences below.
Anyone else remember making these palm crosses during Lent and Easter?