As a verb, lent is the past tense of lending. It implies return. As a noun, Lent is a religious period of 40 days before Easter in which Christians practice fasting or abstinence.
I’m a Christian myself. I remember once telling a friend I was Baptist, and I’ll never forget my father telling me I wasn’t. Just because I went to a Baptist church didn’t make me Baptist was the gist of that conversation.
I remember telling another friend I was a Protestant, and I’ll never forget my mother telling me I wasn’t. She taught me that just because you aren’t Catholic doesn’t mean you default into the Protestant category.
I was a very confused child. My parents knew what I wasn’t.
I learned I didn’t get corrected when I told people I was simply a Christian. Although, come to think of it, my dad might have given me a lesson on how I was not just a Christian but a believer and a follower.
Growing up, I believed Lent to be a “Catholic thing.” I didn’t know many Catholics until college when on Ash Wednesday I noticed quite a number of people walking around with dirt on their foreheads. Upon closer examination, I saw that their faces weren’t dirty. What I mistook for dirt, was an ashen cross drawn on their foreheads.
Making diverse friends of faith in college was easy for me. I didn’t feel the need to go to the Baptist Campus Ministry because they’d be filled with nothing but Baptists. (No offense to Baptists. In fact, I still go to a Baptist church.) I went to another Christian ministry on campus, but I didn’t feel they were inclusive of non-Protestants (even those Lutherans and especially those charismatics). I eventually joined Intervarsity and was enriched by a community of people who had one thing in common, their love for Christ.
So at this time of year, I would ask my friends on campus who were marked with an ashen cross what they were giving up for lent. And then someone asked me. “But I’m not Catholic,” I said, and then I realized I didn’t have to be Catholic to give something up for my Lord. Over the years, I have given up soda, television, caffeine, Facebook (before I gave it up for good), and PG-13 & R rated movies. I once gave up Scrabble on my iPhone.
It’s hard navigating the waters of Lent as a non-Catholic so I’ve kind of molded it into my own thing. A few years ago, someone shared a secret with me that helped me out. I learned that they break their abstinences on Sundays (called mini-Easters, I love that!). If you don’t break for Sunday, then Lent would be 46 days long. That’s a long time to go without coffee.
I’ve learned to not just give up the “vices,” but to fill the void leftover on focusing my attention on Christ. That’s when Lent started to having meaning for me.
Lent is giving something to God and getting something greater from Him in return.
For this year’s Lent, I’ve decided to not give anything up. I’m going to add something in. I plan on reading my Bible faithfully.
How about you? What are you giving up for Lent, or will you add something in?