Ash Wednesday. Lent. Good Friday. Easter. What do those words mean to you? Depending on how you were raised, some of those words quite possibly have little or no meaning to you at all.
Growing up in a Baptist church, I never heard much (anything?) about Ash Wednesday or Lent--and we didn't spend a whole lot of time focusing on Good Friday, either. I knew that my Catholic friends gave something up for Lent, but I didn't really understand it. And honestly, until the last few years, I still didn't understand. What's the point? Why do I need to give something up? Isn't Easter enough?
Easter is such a happy occasion. We, as Believers, are celebrating our risen Lord--and this is definitely worth celebrating!! But Easter isn't the whole story. Before the Resurrection, there was pain and suffering. There was sacrifice...and I think a lot of us don't like to think about the sacrifice. (Or maybe that's just me....)
In the last several years, I've learned that Ash Wednesday is 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter. It is a time to begin looking toward Easter, and it enters us into a period of remembering the sacrifice that was made for us on the cross so that we might have eternal life. We use ashes as a remembrance of the fact that we came from dust and to dust we'll return (in our earthly form). We look to Lent as a time when we can sacrifice something in return--not because we are required to or because it will somehow equal what Jesus did, but because it can turn our hearts more fully to Him. Whether it's fasting from food, television, Facebook, Twitter, a certain food or drink, or whatever else the Lord might bring to mind, it's a reminder every time we crave that item of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Our small sacrifice can remind us of the amazing sacrifice that was made for our salvation. And it's a way we can replace the time we spent playing on the computer, sipping that coffee, etc. and use it instead spending time with the Lord in the Word and in prayer.
I don't believe it's meant to be entered into lightly, just as Christ's death, burial, and resurrection are not to be taken lightly. Sacrifice isn't meant to be easy, so I wouldn't recommend giving up something that you never do (ie. I don't drink coffee, so it's not something for me to give up) or that really doesn't mean much to you. It's a heart matter between us and our Savior, and I believe He leads us to what He has for us.
For me, I want to make this season a time of communion between the Lord and myself. I want to draw so near to Him during these next 40+ days that it becomes a habit of time with Him. I want to wake up Easter morning rejoicing in the Resurrection with a renewed sense of what it really means. And for me, in order to do that, I probably need to give up something to turn my focus to Him. I want to lose my self focus, my pride, my dependence on me, and I want to look to Him. I want to focus on Him, depend on Him, and find my joy in Him. I want this Easter to be one I'll never forget.
Will you join me in the journey to the Savior? If you do, I believe you'll never be the same. I'm believing I will walk away changed. He can do that for each one of us--if only we'll let Him.