Let caught me by surprise this year. In the back of my mind, I knew it was coming. On my calendar, I would see "February 17 - Ash Wednesday." On Sunday at church we watched a video about how Lent was upon us. But still, as I woke up this morning I had an "Oh. That's today isn't it? Crap. I'm so unprepared" moment.
You'd think growing up in a traditional Lutheran family, church, and school, then working in a Lutheran church for 5 1/2 years, this wouldn't happen. But, alas, it does.
I think Lent gets a bad rap. Either people shy away from it screaming about how we live in grace and shouldn't be focusing on our sin and sadness so much. Or, they give up something because if they don't they'll feel guilty. Or people roll their eyes at the different traditions and move on.
I don't think Lent is supposed to be any of those things. Lent doesn't have to be any of those things.
As I sat in my bed this morning, not wanting to move quite yet, I did some poking around at what other people were saying about Lent and Ash Wednesday on the Internet.
I came across Rachel Held Evan's yearly post about 40 Ideas for Lent. Her yearly post has always been a favorite of mine and I think she has a beautiful focus on the true heart of this church season and giving a different perspective for those of us who do want to practice something during these 40 days. (Not including Sundays.) She starts with having the reader think about what they want different in their lives, faith, actions, habits, etc. It's the idea of, not going into the season blindly and randomly giving up chocolate or something simply because that's what you do. Wondering what and who we'll be listening to. Considering picking up a certain type of prayer or ritual perhaps. She also mentions the cycle of death and resurrection in the Bible.
"The cycle of death and resurrection is central to the Christian faith. In what ways is that cycle present in my life right now? Where might there be necessary change, suffering, death and decay, and how might new life emerge from those experiences?"
Which, then makes me think of that wonderful Hozier song and how death and resurrection play in love and our relationships. Which, then after watching the video for the hundredth time, makes me start to think of different things I could be picking up at this time as well.
Then, I went over to my She Reads Truth app to check out their Lenten devotional. I loved what today's writer (Raechel Myers) had to say about Lent.
"This is Lent. It's a time to stop - wherever we're going and whatever we're coming from. Whether we've been anticipating this season since Christmas or it's stopping us cold on our way to where we think we need to be - here we are.
"Lent is a pause button. It is a quiet unlike any other time of year. Lent is a season to close our eyes as the busy world buzzes around us, to consider those things we'd much rather forget: our sin and our humanity. We came from dust, and to dust we will return."
A pause button. Something which catches us dead in our tracks. Sounds similar to the morning I've had.
Thinking about sin, and humanity and darkness are never fun. It's far different from the preparations we have during Advent where we are getting ready for the birth of Jesus and we sing fun songs and put up decorations and light candles. Lent is not this way. Instead, we put ashes on our heads and think about temptation and sin and dying.
Yeah, I can see why it gets a bad rap.
But, just because it's not always fun doesn't mean it's not beautiful. I think sometimes we need that pause button to slow down and consider where we are in our faith and in our lives. Taking 40 days out of the year to cling to the cross and ponder Christ's death and resurrection.
This doesn't mean we whip ourselves and drown ourselves in the mud and grime of our sins. This doesn't mean we do something simply because we are told to. In fact, this morning I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders when I remembered "I'm not required to do anything for Lent. If I don't want to do something, that's okay!" Or it could mean you giving up something not quite so ordinary. I love when I hear people talk about how for Lent they want to give up guilt or shame.
I don't know how I'll be recognizing the season this year. Or if I will at all. It's something I'll be thinking and praying over through the day and those are just some of my pre-caffeinated morning thoughts.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about Lent.