It’s so crazy how time seems to fly the older you get. One day, you feel like you have WEEKS until the next “big thing”. Fast forward for what feels like 10 seconds and it’s a few big events later. We just celebrated another round of birthdays in my family yesterday. Wednesday kicks off Valentine’s Day and Lent. That’s a crazy juxtaposition of holidays isn’t it?
I already talked about Valentine’s Day last week, so let’s a take a look at Lent! For the past week or so, I feel like I’ve taken a deep dive into Lent looking at the origins of how this came to be a thing, what it is culturally now, and what it really is for those who are practicing it. I didn’t grow up in a church that I feel like placed a huge emphasis on Lent. I didn’t even know what is was until high school! At that point, I just thought it was something you did, but I had no idea what the deeper, heart of the meaning behind it was. Since then, I’ve learned a lot.
What Lent Is
Lent is a season in the church calendar that lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter. It’s roughly 7 weeks long. During this time, Christians choose to abstain from something to refocus themselves on God and/or to more deeply understand the sacrifice that Jesus suffered on the cross. Sometimes, a person chooses a spiritual discipline to be added on in that season instead of giving something up for Lent. Neither option is better than the other. The entire season is meant to draw you into a more intimate relational experience with our Creator. It is to remind you that Jesus is better.
What’s the purpose of giving something up? It’s in that act of self-denial that we can begin to identify with what a sacrifice it was for Jesus to die for our sins. For us, it may just look like an uneaten cookie, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s us saying that we can deny ourselves something good for something better – Jesus.
Maybe you aren’t feeling that something is a distraction to you that’s hindering your relationship with God. That’s awesome! It’s also the reason some people end up adding a spiritual discipline on instead. They’d be using the 7 weeks to draw closer to God in a way that they normally wouldn’t – by keeping a journal, memorizing scripture, praying while driving instead of listening to music, etc.
What Lent Isn’t
It’s not a holiness competition. It’s not a time to rub it into someone’s face that you’ll be reading the entire Bible every 2 days and fasting anything but liquid for the full time. It’s a time to withdraw from the things that get in the way of us following Jesus daily. There’s so many distractions that insert themselves like a wall into our lives between us and God – social media, Netflix, spiritual laziness, sometimes even relationships. Other times, it may even be doing yet another thing at the church in His name rather than resting in Him. I know I’ve been guilty of that more than once!
Here’s the thing, y’all. The church loves us some Lent. Why? It’s so fun to boast and say that we’ve been fasting sugar for 3 days and already lost 5 pounds. We love love love sounding holy. Honestly, I’d love to give up sugar and have those kind of results! It’s not about that at all. If you’re giving up actively sinning, something you don’t even participate in or something with the wrong motive at heart, it’s better to just not do it. Lent is not the Christian Diet Plan. It’s a dedicated season and invitation to pursue Jesus harder than ever before.
Do I have to do Lent? It’s still feeling a little weird to me. Of course not! Some years, I don’t participate. That’s completely okay. Lent starts tomorrow and although, I’m doing a Lent study, I’m on the fence at what this season will look like. At the end of the day, it’s a season meant to draw you closer to Jesus in a way that you may not be during the other weeks of the year. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it. If you’re chugging along and don’t feel you need to step aside and for the next 7 weeks focus on giving something up or adding something on, don’t. This is your relationship with God. Do what’s best for it.
Resources I LOVE For Lent (+ Really Any Time!)
I absolutely love the Sacred Holidays Team and what they put out. The motto they have of Less Chaos, More Jesus just draws me in. I typically follow along on their instagram @sacredholidays with what is going on. This year, they’re studying the book of John in their He Is Alive study, but they’ve studied a ton of different things over the past few years. They focus specifically on holiday times – Advent and Lent to change the focus of our culture from consumerism and our busyness to resting in Jesus. They do have options for printed studies, but offer digital downloads as well. Part of the proceeds from each study, provides studies for women in prison.
When I first started thinking about Lent, it was thanks in part to this podcast and Annie’s Rhythms series. Since then, I’ve listened to both of her podcasts with the She Reads Truth team which you can hear here and here several times each. They delve deeply into all the topics surrounding Lent and the beauty of what this season can be in your life. I think whether you’re doing Lent or not, they’re worth a listen to gain a better foundational understanding of this church season.
Exodus with She Reads Truth (+ Men Read Truth + Kids Read Truth)
If you listen to either of the That Sounds Fun podcasts above, you’ll probably get excited about what they’re doing. I know I did which is why I decided to join them doing Exodus this year. I’m pretty excited, because even though they do have printed options with their studies, you can receive them via email or just read online too. I like the ease of that honestly. I’m also really intrigued by going back into Exodus during this season. I feel like I’ve always focused on the gospels during Lent, and I’m excited about switching up my reading. Join with me to do the 2018 Lent Study, and let me know in the comments that we’ll be studying together!
Journaling is something that I wish I was better at. I love having the record of things, but the act of writing it out for me gets hard. I love the idea of setting aside Lent to journal your prayers in full and write out the things you’re thankful for. There’s so many different kinds of journals to choose from. I am loving this one, because you can bet that I’m thanking God for coffee pretty much every day. This one is also so stinking cute! The company that makes the journals like the striped watercolor one to the left also make journals that are specific to bullet journaling. I think that could be a unique way to write down our prayers and goals and dedicate them to the Lord.
Hearing the Word Read Aloud
Do you have the Bible app? You’re practically halfway there to this one already. The Youversion Bible App has an option that you can have it read aloud to you. This is a game changer. I read the entire book of Hebrews last week while getting ready to leave my house. That’s insane. It reads until you tell it to stop, but it’s a great way to read and get an overall feel for a book that you’re studying more deeply. It’s also a great way to read on the go. (They even have a kids version of the app that’s super fun!)
The Read Scripture App
This is another Bible Reading App. Why? You’ve got the Bible app. Why do we need yet another one? This one is so cool! I love how it weaves scripture in with the Bible Project videos. It doesn’t have the plans, different translations, or audio that the other one does, but I love the fact that all of that isn’t there. It’s a simpler way to read, track your reading and engage with God’s words from your device. It does have it split into thematics so that you can delve into a book or delve into a topic like Holiness or Heaven and Earth.
I put the John commentary here just in case the Sacred Holidays study piqued your interest. I’m currently using the Galatians one though, and I love it. This commentary points directly to Jesus and shows you where he is. That may be super easy in John, because it’s evident that Jesus is there. It gets a lot trickier in the Old Testament to see him as clearly, which is one reason I love them. They also go super in depth but are still pretty brief, which makes them way less intimidating than some commentaries! (They do have one on Exodus if you want to jump on the She Reads Truth study with me!)
Happy Lent + Happy Drawing Closer to Jesus!