Lent: The 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.
I dislike rules, especially rules that are deemed "for my own good". This is one of my hang ups with traditionally practiced Christianity. I think the focus is too much on "what to do" instead of the heart of the Man whom we are to emulate.
I have some great friends who are Catholic. I would be a terrible Catholic and yet I am intrigued by the idea of lent. I have always seen lent as this showy kind of thing you do to prove to God that you really mean this whole "christian" thing. I have seen lent as a "rule" contrived to make you a better person.
I recently read an article that challenged my thinking. Jesus spent 40 days in the dessert being tested. It was then when we could see what kind of Christ he wasn't, he was tested for our sake. The world was flooded for 40 days in Noah's time, to wash away sin. We could think of Lent as a way to prepare our hearts for Easter, a time when our sin's were washed away for good.
The dessert is such a great picture of deprivation. This is not something we Americans do very often, deprive ourselves. We eat when we are hungry, when our clothes wear out we get new ones, we sleep in air conditioned/heated houses. If something hurts, we medicate it. We don't ever choose to go through...gasp...discomfort, at least if we can help it. Lent is about choosing denial.
We can choose to live, for 40 days out of the year, a metaphor. By choosing not to eat meat on Friday, we can acknowledge our true needs versus wants. By choosing to abstain from something, we can die to ourselves. For 40 days we can be reminded that, when all is said and done, you can't take any of this with you. We deceive ourselves daily about what matters, but as your bones rot in the grave you won't be thinking about your hair and makeup. As others divide up you possessions among themselves you will have a deep understanding of what stuff was ever yours to begin with. When it is just you and God, face to face, He isn't going to be worried about what you chose to do with your 401K or vacation plans.
I know some may struggle with the whole Catholic aspect of Lent. I am not of the school of thought that we can impress God and work our way into heaven. For me, Lent will be about the opposite of that. Lent will be a time where I examine my heart, see all my foolish attachments, gain a deeper understanding of what "need" means, and know with out the Blood of the Lamb, spilt for me, I am nothing.