As a lifelong Southern Baptist, I did not grow up practicing Lent. I actually have a distinct memory of my friend Carmen sharing about her lent experience when we were in high school. She gave up chocolate one year, Coca Cola the next and each year, I’m certain I maintained the Michael Scott, “Nope, don’t like that.” expression on my face the whole time.
Years later, as a recent college graduate working at my alma mater just two years after Lambuth University had transitioned to being a satellite campus for University of Memphis, I sat at my desk and watched as many faculty and staff, longtime Lambuth faithfuls, made their way back from lunch with a black mark on their forehead after participating in the Ash Wednesday service at a nearby Methodist church. I started googling Ash Wednesday and as I read about the traditions, I realized that Lent was not about what they were giving up – and it felt like us Baptists were missing out on something really special.
We’re still learning over here at the Grooms home about what it means to participate in aspects of the Church calendar that were not prominent in our churches growing up. Last year we attended our very first Ash Wednesday service and we were so excited about that being a new tradition for our family. Over the last few years as we prepare our hearts and seek ways to participate in Lent, I’ve seen a direct correlation in my heart between sacrifice and provision. When I make sacrifices for the sake of being able to spend more time with Jesus, he meets me there and provides what my heart ultimately desires – more of Him.
It’s not at all about what we’re giving up. It’s recognizing the sacrifice that Jesus made for us so that we could have a relationship with him and honoring his sacrifice with one of our own to grow in him.
And honestly, a simple lenten practice is the perfect primer for a life of sacrifice and faithfulness to Jesus, putting off what the world calls good for what HE calls better.
It’s not at all about what we’re giving up – it’s all about Jesus and how he is so much more than anything we could ever give up.