What is Lent and what does it have to do with me?
I have been asking myself this question for a few years and have decided that Lent is not necessarily a Biblical practice, but the principles are very Biblical. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is the 40ish days leading up to Easter. It is a practice that was started by the Catholic Church but now observed by many denominations. Usually the idea is to fast from something for this period of time.
I grew up Baptist, and all that lent (lint) was to me was something in my belly button or the bottom of my pocket. I had no experience with it whatsoever. We celebrating Easter and always got a new dress and Easter Baskets with candy and had an Easter Egg Hunt. We often had some sort of Easter play at church and a big Easter lunch with ham and deviled eggs. It was certainly a day of celebration.
When we were newly married, my husband and I moved to Costa Rica to be missionaries. We learned a whole different Easter while living there. People definitely observed Lent, usually fasting from meat and other things and talked about it often. Then during Semana Santa (Holy Week) no one went to work. It was a time for family and vacations. On Good Friday, there was a very bloody and somber processional of Jesus and the Saints and then on Saturday (the very devout) would not eat or use electricity or work at all. They were often overcome when talking about Jesus's sacrifice for them. Then Sunday came, and everyone went back to normal. Even at church there was very little focus on Christ's resurrection.
Two things that really stuck with us after our experience were that in the past, we probably had not put enough focus on Christ's suffering, and also that Easter Week is incredibly depressing without the Resurrection.
A few years ago we started attending a liturgical church and found that they balanced these two aspects very well. They celebrate Ash Wednesday, when we focus on our sin and mortality, while remembering the hope that we have in Jesus. Then observing Lent in a way that helps us to learn to depend on God and reflect on Him in times of want. Having a Good Friday Service reflecting and contemplating Christ's very difficult death, and then a whole season of celebration for Easter-- full of feasting and goodness!
I think there are so many healthy aspects to following a liturgical calendar and celebrating seasons in the Church. During Advent, we intentionally slow down during the busiest time of the year to focus on the coming Savior. And during Lent, I am trying to remove time suckers in order to make more room for intentional living. For me, this is clutter, noise, and over-commitment. When I give these up, it in turn gives me more time, focus, and energy for God and my family. Win, win.
I have also talked to some friends who have said that for Lent instead of giving something up, they are adding something. For example, writing a Thank You note to one person every day for 40 days, going for a reflective walk everyday, committing to a daily quiet time for 40 days, etc. All great ideas.
Lent is a season in the Christian Church to draw you in to reflection and awe at how sinful we are and what an amazing gift of sacrifice the Lord made on our behalf. However you feel led to celebrate it is up to you!