The Intent of Lent

Robert Thomas Quiring —  March 19, 2014

RTQAsh Wednesday is here once again, which means we are entering the season of Lent.  I’ve been reflecting, more than usual this year, on Lents gone by and trying to decipher what’s most important to remember in our Lenten disciplines.  So, here goes…

Lenten disciplines are not about:

  1. Personal Willpower – Lent is not our second chance to make New Years’ resolutions.  In high school, I looked at Lenten disciplines as a personal willpower challenge.  I asked, “Am I strong enough to do this,” rather than, “Will this remind me of my dependence on Christ?”
  2. Irritation – we miss out on all of the spiritual benefit if we complain about our discipline all the time.  If – when you think about Lent or your discipline – your main reaction is frustration – then you either need to hit the reset button or find a different discipline.
  3. Pride – it’s not about proving our spirituality.  Our society teaches us to win at all costs and that mantra can transfer into even our spiritual lives.  If someone is sharing their discipline with you and one of your reactions is, “My sacrifice is bigger,” it’s time to refocus on what Lenten disciplines are about.
  4. To-Do List – we go through life checking things off of our to do list.  It’s possible -because I’ve done it – to do your Lenten discipline everyday and get nothing out of it.  I contend that it would be more helpful to have one day of faithful discipline rather than going through the motions for 40 days.

Lenten disciples are about:

  1. Dependence on Christ – Lent is about being fed by Christ in areas of our lives where we are usually fed by the world.  Many people believe they can save themselves – but they just haven’t managed to pull it off yet.  Lent is a time to reclaim the knowledge that we cannot save ourselves and put our dependence in Christ.
  2. Spring-Cleaning – we clean out those things in our lives that are messy or that we don’t need anymore.  And we start new practices and routines.  Lent is a time to see and feel the light of Christ, however, oftentimes our messy lives can block us from seeing all of Christ’s light.  Lent is a time for us to do some spring-cleaning of our lives – so Christ’s light can fully shine.
  3. Humility – we are reminded that we are not all that and a bag of potato chips – preferably ruffled.  We are reminded of our spiritual poverty and our brokenness; and we’re reminded that Christ walks this journey of life with us.  We are not big enough to even handle all of our personal problems, but Christ is big enough to handle all of the world’s problems.  As we realize this and are repeatedly reminded of it especially during Lent – our pride is kept in check.

Let us remember that we are journeying through the season of Lent together.  And we need to be encouraged and reminded why we are doing what we are doing throughout this season.

What have been your experiences with Lenten disciplines?  Anything you would add to the list or take off?

Robert Thomas Quiring

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Robert is currently serving as an Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida. Robert is a husband, father, pastor, sweet tea lover, technology enthusiast-er, and webmaster of Masterin' the Pastorin'.