So, it is lent.
Besides the infamous question that generally follows that proclamation (what cha’ gonna give up?!), what the heck does lent mean to this Christian, Quaker-loving, Evangelical tradition, spiritually seeking girl? Well that, my friends, is a great question.
This week, I received a big ash cross on my forehead. And I remember my first lent, two years ago. I had never heard of lent from any Christians, I heard of lent from my friends who wanted to lose weight so they assumed lent was a good time to kick that sugar/meat/dairy/bad food habit. I mean, really, what else does lent mean to the rest of the world? Two years ago I walked into chapel, entering into a completely new journey of faith, and thought, hey, I should do this lent thing, because, well…why not?
Good intentions and all, I had no idea that lent has a powerful tradition and a powerful purpose besides taking a break from coffee. Lent has nothing to do with what we give up, and everything to do with what we remember.
I wish that someone would have told me this years ago. I wish that someone would have helped me to recognize much earlier the value that lies in tradition. For many, lent, and most spiritual disciplines I tend to categorize as “traditional” for that matter, are not mindless actions. The reason that they uphold these traditions is that they are bound to a greater community than those who are presently alive. Lent brings us into a season of sorrow, mourning, remembrance of our own brokenness and need. If we didn’t have these seasons, we might fall into the fatal falsity that life and our faith is only about us. Tradition reminds us that we are deeply connected to one another, and we experience the emotions, seasons, rhythms of life together even when we as individuals may not be in that season.
Honestly, lent is coming at a deeply painful time in my own life and faith, so I am fully embracing this remembering period of my brokenness and the reality that I too will return to dust. And in 39 days, I will remember the sweet taste of resurrection with my community. I will enter in to a time of joy and celebration in Christ’s conquering of death even when I may still feel aches of death in myself.
Because that is tradition, community, and this deeper understanding of our spiritual rhythms than any individual can find for themselves.
I am not giving up anything for lent this year, because right now I need only add some time and space so that I can remember who Christ is, remember His promises, remember that He relentlessly pursues my heart. And I will gather with my community to be reminded together, and to wade through the seasons of life, whether we as individuals are personally experiencing them or not, as one body, not separate bodies.