Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not even sure I completely understand what lent is. Because I was raised a church going, worshiping...... BAPTIST

Not even sure I completely understand what lent is.  Because I've never observed it or even much thought about it.  And the whole ashes thing is a total mystery that I'm working to unravel.  Because I was raised a church going, worshiping...... BAPTIST.  
Easter was much like Christmas for me growing up.  It just came.  And went away when the food and decorations got put away.  

 And it meant new dresses and shoes and Easter baskets.  And pictures in the park with the azaleas in bloom.  And we always went to church on Easter morning and then had a huge meal with family that lasted all afternoon. 

And we hunted for eggs - the real kind that we boiled and dyed the day before.   And that no one really wanted to eat.  No plastic eggs, and no sir, there was no Easter bunny at our house.  Never even heard of such till I was a mom and apparently I was supposed to give Easter gifts to my kids.  Which my 13, 12 and 10 year old will tell you they never got.  And they can add that to their list of all manner of ways they've been deprived. 

So growing up Southern Baptist in a small Texas church, needless to say, I never heard of lent.  Or advent.  Because back in the day, Baptists just  celebrated things for one day. 

(And by the way, I'm not picking on the denomination.  I'm still very much a church going, worshiping, hymnal singing baptist - but a different brand.  And where we are now, our church observes all the newness of things that make me curious.)

So I'm trying to learn now, as an adult.  Yet as a child still in my faith, learning how to grow that faith.  Learning how to strengthen the things that are already deeply there, but not sure why.

So just reading a bit recently,  here's what I've learned about lent. (Coming straight from the mouth of an under qualified, non-specialist in the area of almost everything.) Because I want to know, and feel, and understand the full gift I've been given as a believer in Christ... 

Lent is the 40 days leading us to Easter.  A nod to the 40 days that Jesus wrestled in the wilderness with the devil.  40 days of an open ended story - leading us to the final happy ending of the resurrection.  

It is 40 days for us to place ourselves in the story and wrestle with our own doubts, insecurities and losses.  Beginning with Ash Wednesday, which in simple Kristi terms, appears to be an opportunity to humble ourselves before God, admitting our weakness and need for him.  Showing humility in the presence of the power of God.  

So lent is much like a 40 page unfinished book that we are left to wonder the outcome.  But really, most of us already know.  And that's exactly why the season of lent is a huge part of the story.  Because there can be no ending with true meaning and impact till we understand the characters and events that brought us there.  There can be no rejoicing till we have seen the despair.  There can be no fullness till we have experienced loss, and there can be no peace till we have suffered heartbreak.   

I never understood the debate of what to give up for lent... a diet coke, maybe? It seems like the sacrifice should be something of true value - a little piece of ourselves - material or otherwise - that every time I reach for it and have to deny myself, I have to ask for strength from God to let the temptation pass.  Again, another nod to Jesus' days of wrestling with the devil.   

But I think the value of sacrifice is to give up something of ourselves so we can focus on what is truly important.   Giving in a small way, ourselves to God, so we can take the focus of life off of us.  And re-focus on the importance of the life of Christ as it was offered for us. 

So today we begin 40 days of waiting for the ending.  Of waiting for the light to shine again in a world covered in darkness.  40 days of wanting something that we don't yet have  - so maybe we can love it more when we receive. 

And I really don't know what my portion or participation may be this time around.  Probably not much.... can't teach old baptists dogs new tricks, as they say....  But maybe on the inside something is finally breaking free for me.  Some part of me ready to set aside Kristi, and pay attention to the days ahead remembering that they were lived especially for me. 

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