Lent is another one of those traditions that tend sneak up on us every year. Perhaps you're one of the many who are saying right now, "Lent? is that today?" or let's be honest, "Who cares about lent?" Lent is one of those seasons which has almost lost it's meaning for us today.
Now you might be saying. "Hey, I'm ready for Lent. I've got my fasting item all pegged down. I'm ready to go." But the purpose of lent is not suppose to be about fasting in the first place. You might disagree with me, many might as a matter of fact, but the truth is that Lent is not about fasting it is about preparation. We are preparing ourselves for Easter. Fasting is one important tool in this, to be sure, and yet as with many things in the modern Christian faith it is the tool which has become the goal. Let us fast for fasting is spiritual, rather than fasting as part of a greater goal and mindset.
The art of preparing oneself is one which we seem to be loosing. The thought of preparing yourself in a spiritual way makes me think more about those few moments before we take communion, or possibly a prayer at the beginning of a service. The idea of taking something like an entire season to 'prepare' for a moment like Easter seems ridiculous. And yet, this is what we practically do all the time.
How much planning goes into your family Christmas? How much scheduling goes into your family vacation? We are actually very used to the idea of planning and preparing far ahead of time, and these times of preparation often take far more time than the actual thing we're preparing for. We spend a month getting ready for Christmas day. We spend six moths planning a two week vacation. Examples could go on.
The art of 'preparation' when it comes to a spiritual endeavor should be no less apparent. And this is the purpose of Lent. Yet it seems that the way we approach Lent, even when it's from the right place, seems to have less to do with preparing for something greater and more to do with fasting for fasting sake. Is it any wonder then why we come to moments in our lives like Easter and find that we are in no different a spiritual place to accept it than we ever have been before?
I would never suggest to anyone that they should not decide on something to give up for Lent. The practice is completely valid. The practice of discipline and the act of emptying ourselves are always worthwhile if done constructively. But I would say that they must also be done with purpose. When we prepare with purpose I think we will find more meaning and more fulfillment in our endeavors.