Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Problem with Lent

I was raised Catholic.  I was even a Catholic school girl for five years-ugly plaid uniform, Nuns and everything.  I am now an Evangelical Christian.  It's a different kind of faith.  It shouldn't be, we worship the same God.  But it is different, somehow, for me anyway.  Vastly different.

There are things I miss about the Catholic church.  There are traditions of the Catholic church that I think are...well...beautiful.  Very beautiful.  The traditions centered around the time of Easter in the Catholic church, could be a beautiful and intimate experience.  The problem is...for a lot of people it is not beautiful or intimate.  It's just another religious activity absent of sanctity.  That is the problem with Lent. 

Last year my friend made sure she got to church on the morning of Ash Wednesday to receive ashes.  She proudly walked through her day with the prominent display of ash on her forehead.  It was very important to her that others knew she had been 'ashed' that day and she looked for affiliates who had done the same.  She excitedly asked her friends if they were going to get their ashes, too.  Then, my friend, wanted me to know that she was giving up chocolate for Lent and had planned a whole month's worth of fish dinners for the upcoming Friday nights. 

When I asked my friend what getting ashes meant to her.  She wasn't sure.  When I asked my friend if she knew what the ashes symbolized, she answered with an embarrassed "no".  When I asked my friend the purpose in her abstinence from chocolate and red meat on Fridays, she was without explanation.  I didn't ask my friend in order to embarrass her.  I asked my friend because she was practicing something beautiful and I felt she owed it to herself and to God to know why she was actually doing it.  While the Bible is not distinct in an outline specifically for 'Lent' and 'Ash Wednesday', it certainly covers fasting, abstinence, and symbolism and demonstrates the beauty in such acts.  My friend was surprised.  She had no idea what the Bible had to say about any of these things.  My friend had never been taught to go to the text that inspired the Catholic church in the first place. 

 My friend is like so many I grew up with and know today who seemingly practice religious acts because they feel it is expected. It is what they do. It appears to be ingrained into their D.N.A..  So instead of knowing Christ as a friend and savior, people like my friend get caught up in the acts of things that should bring us closer to him but instead turn out to only be robotic behavior.  Acting as a well-trained robot all whilst forsaking the holy Word of God that includes everything you ever needed to know about Jesus.  Growing up, I just wasn't taught to seek the Good Book that informed.  But I sure never ate a pepperoni pizza on Fridays and I really missed that ice cream I offered to give up.  I just never really knew why I wasn't allowed those things.  Therein lies the danger of doing things religiously.  Because after a while, we forget why we do them at all.  Religious acts become just that, acts without a purpose.  That is the problem with Lent.

This season brings me frustration as I watch Facebook posts roll on by of all of the boasting of what has been given up for Lent.  Soon after, followed by all the complaining about what people are missing that they have abstained from for Lent.  I hear these kind of discussions everywhere.  Even when I stand in line at McDonald's and hear the lady in front of me tell her friend she doesn't really want the fish sandwich today but, "You know, it's Friday".   What kind of honoring sacrifice is it when we make sure everyone knows about it and then we gripe about it as well?

What good is receiving ashes or practicing Lent, if nothing else we do all year is an effort to bring us closer to God?  What honor do we bring to God if we do nothing else to honor him outside of these acts?   

When I asked my friend about this, when I asked about her daily practices of knowing the Lord she said she hadn't any.  She didn't read the Bible and she had very little understanding of what was done or discussed in church on Sunday.  In fact, she was most often embarrassed to mention Jesus' name in public in fear of others thinking she was crazy.  There is no abstinence from meat or any amount of ashes that can excuse us for denying our Lord in every other way.  This is the problem with Lent.

Lent can be beautiful.  Last night at the dinner table, I explained to my girls the Lenten tradition.  We talked about the relationship between self-denial and prayer.  We spoke of fasting and sacrifices and the Jewish people's customs of grief and sackcloths and ashes.  Aly called it, "Ashley Wednesday" and wondered why some called it that.  And then we asked the girls if there was something they would like to sacrifice until Easter to practice the things we discussed.  Strictly voluntary.  I will tell you that only one of my four daughters immediately responded and I can't tell you what she chose because we taught them to abstain privately (and without complaint!), but it was a biggie.  Aly said she would sacrifice smoking.  She is our house comedienne.  I should have guessed she'd say something like that.  I think we may begin this as a custom in our home.  Yep, I said it.  I will guarantee you, however, all those participating under this roof will know why they do so and it won't be the only thing they do all year to engage in an intimate and honoring relationship with Christ.


  1. AMEN! LOOOVE this! I am so bothered by people who do ANYTHING w/o knowing *why*.

  2. I find it interesting that you erased my earse all posts that don't agree with your point of view? Why bother to blog?

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I don't know why your original comment did not post. I did not read it. Please feel free to repost. This time, however, perhaps you could use your real name.

    Here is my disclaimer, this is my blog, I write what I feel, see, experience, etc.. Just as it is with every individual that is fortunate enough to live in this country I feel free to express such on my blog site. If you are in disagreement with such things, that is okay and if you choose to post a comment, I am always up for great conversation. Having said that, I find it difficult to process boldness in opinion from a source that is anonymous when I am willing to share my thoughts and publish my first and last name. Just a thought.

    And while I do enjoy a good conversation, I work hard in life to do two important things: Love God and live like Jesus as best as I can and subsequently do not plan on engaging in or advertising hostile if your post falls into either of those categories, please take your comment to another blog site who is willing to participate. Those I will not post.