A DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT by Linda Sommerville
Every so often my eye glasses get smudged by fingerprints or clouded up with grime from day-to-day life. Sometimes it takes awhile to notice the film covering my glasses, because I can still see fairly well. When I finally notice the accumulated film on my lenses, I find something to wipe them with and go on about my day. But every so often, something greasy or really dirty gets on the lenses and I have to spray them with lens cleaner and wipe them extra carefully. This extra effort always pays off in my being able to see the world more clearly.
This cleaning process is similar to what can happen during the season of Lent, which began yesterday. Lent is a time when we are invited to allow God to reveal the smudges and grime that has begun to stick to our souls. Often it can accumulate so slowly that we may become accustomed to having this film of dirt covering our souls. We may not even recognize that we’re no longer walking through our days with the full love, joy, peace, freedom, and intimacy with God available to us.
Lent is like the heavy-duty lens cleaner I periodically use to ensure I can see clearly. During Lent, when I open myself up to the cleansing, forgiving, restoring presence of Christ in my life, my soul is ready to more fully celebrate the resurrection and new life of Christ on Easter Sunday.
I first experienced the joy and spiritual meaning of observing Lent as a child. Some people mistakenly think that Lent is just for Catholics, however, it’s actually a season of the Christian calendar that has been observed down through the ages by Protestant denominations as well.
Lent is a period of time for reflecting deeply on the life of Jesus and what it means to follow him. It’s a time of taking a spiritual journey with Jesus to the cross, letting God show us where he may be calling us toward deeper surrender, repentance, or obedience.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (which was yesterday), marking the start of the Lenten journey with Jesus. Many have observed this day by placing ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads as a sign of Christ’s death, and as a reminder through the day of their intention to submit to Jesus more fully during the 40 days leading up to Easter. This act of worship is simply an outward symbol of a person’s inward heart toward God.
Lent continues for 40 days as a way of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and taking up our own crosses to follow him. The forty days of Lent are also a reminder of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. During this time, Jesus endured spiritual tests which prepared him for his journey to the cross.
While Lent encompasses 40 days, it does not include the Sundays. There are seven Sundays in Lent (including Palm Sunday and Easter), which are celebrated as “mini-Easters” until Easter Sunday finally arrives with its joyous resurrection celebration.
Often, people talk about “giving something up for Lent,” such as chocolate, caffeine, or social media. Sometimes, people may take something up for Lent, such as seeking to be more generous to those in need, or showing kindness and grace toward the difficult people in their life. In general, Lent is seen as a time of preparation and repentance, much like the season of Advent leading up to Christmas.
Lenten Prayer Practices
Whether or not you’ve ever observed Lent before, I would encourage you to consider doing so this year. This could be a special time of going deeper with Jesus and preparing your heart to celebrate his resurrection even more fully this Easter. If you decide to do this, here are some ideas that may help you get started:
1. You might begin by reading the story of Jesus in the wilderness, noticing the ways that the devil tempts Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Pay attention to the way that Jesus uses Scripture to respond to those temptations and keep his heart pure before God.
- Ask God to show you if there are any temptations in your life right now that need his help to overcome.
2. Ask God to show you if there is anything he may want you to surrender during this season as a sign of your willingness to sacrifice for him. It could be something like a particular food or activity. Anytime you think about that object/activity, use it as a reminder to pray.
3. Or you might ask God if there is something specific he may invite you to take up for Lent—such as being more helpful around the house, or finding some way to serve the poor. Again, each time you engage in that activity, do so prayerfully, asking God to help you be the hands and feet of Jesus.