Lent: A Closer Walk with God
“What is Lent?” This is a question I have often wondered about. I decided to do some research. The basis for Lent is the fasting for 40 days and nights that Jesus performed before beginning his earthly ministry. It appears that Lent began being observed sometime before 325 CE. In the early church, baptism and penance were key Lenten themes. During Lent, candidates prepared for Easter baptism, and people did public penance for serious sins. Today the emphasis has shifted from long periods of fasting to prayer, meditation, and reflection on the meaning of Easter. Some denominations promote giving something up for Lent.
I cannot remember much about Lent as a child. I do remember our family giving something up for Lent. However, the activity that stands out in my mind is my mother’s activities with the women’s society at the church during Lent. For many years I remember my mother having a box on her dresser where she would put money for mission giving for the church. I know that we participated as a family in some of the church’s fundraisings during Lent to help downtown St. Louis ministries.
I started giving things up again when I was older because my friends were all doing it during Lent. We would take the money we saved and give it to ministries our church supported. We would attend Sunday services and youth services on Sunday nights. Some of us would go with our parents to make mission trips in the community.
My wife and I have participated in more Lenten disciplines after we were married. We began with attending Ash Wednesday services. We found that Lent was a time to grow closer to Jesus by focusing on bible study, prayer and worship. This was accomplished through time away in quiet retreats in local parks, retreat centers, or weekend getaways at Lake of the Ozark and Table Rock Lake. We participated in daily disciplines, reading, praying and meditations with study guides from Cokesbury. Adam Hamilton, Amy-Jill Levine and Matt Rawle authored some of the guides. We also attended weekly worship services and volunteered for various ministries.
Sometimes Lent is a season for giving something up. Lent is also a time of giving. Giving to others, giving to your church and yourself. Jesus entered his 40 days and 40 nights of Fasting to prepare himself for his worldly ministry. Lent is a perfect time to prepare for a closer walk with Jesus, perhaps by joining small groups, participating in Lenten studies, or preparing to volunteer in a mission of the church. Lent might be a time to prepare for our baptism and join a church. Lent is a time for giving yourself time to sit back and do those Christian disciplines you have wanted to do but have not found the time.
This year during the Lenten season, give yourself and others a gift that brings you enjoyment and a closer walk with God.