I used to scoff at my fellow Christians who celebrated Lent, boasting, “This is my favorite time of year to be a Protestant.” Since my obnoxious high school days, I’ve developed more of an appreciation for the historical traditions of the Christian church, including the seasons and holidays of the church calendar. Over the past two years, as we have been part of a very contemporary church congregation, I have thought lot about what I can do at home to incorporate these time-tested spiritual rhythms and practices into my life.
This year I decided it was hypocritical to give lip service to the importance of the church calendar without making more of an effort to observe Lent. I like the way that our school chaplain explains this season as a time of sober reflection and contemplation, during which we give special thought to the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. Just as the weeks of Advent heighten the celebration of Christmas Day, the solemn season of Lent makes Easter even more joyful and celebratory.
Part of Lent is self-denial. To this end, I gave up Dr. Pepper (and, just to make sure I didn’t escape suffering, this means brown soda of all kinds). The idea is that every time I want a Dr. Pepper, I am reminded of Christ. But suffering is not the end here. Lent is not just about going without, but using the space that is created by self-denial to cultivate something new.
In other words, as I contemplate the great cost of my salvation, I am challenged to reflect on whether or not I am living in a manner worthy of that gift. At school our students plant seeds on Ash Wednesday and pray for a specific virtue to grow in their hearts during the season of Lent. The little sprouts that shoot up in our classroom are intended to be reminders of the fruits that God is growing in our lives.
This year, I need to grow in submission. Do I truly want to embrace the life that God has given me, with all of its opportunities and challenges? In order to do that, am I willing to give up some things that I love…things I love more than Dr. Pepper, for a period longer than 40 days? Am I willing to trust that God will fill those empty places with blessing and joy?
I posted this last year during this same time, but I think that this prayer applies again: “I wish, therefore, O my God, to build all my trust upon Thee. As Thou canst do all things, deign to implant in my soul this virtue which I desire, and to obtain it from Thy Infinite Mercy, I will often say to Thee: ‘Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Thee.‘”