Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season.
When I was growing up, my church didn’t focus on Lent, and I had no clue what it meant. Even Easter Sunday, in my child-size brain, was more about what dress I should wear and dreading my mom’s decision to make us all wear matching outfits that she had sewn herself than realizing the amazing gift provided by the resurrection.
When I was in my 20s and first heard of Lent, it was about what I should give up or add to my life for 40 days. I did that for years. Gave up chocolate, sugar, and social media. Added more prayer, daily exercise, and volunteering. Those things were not bad to give up or add to my life, but I slowly began to wonder if there was a deeper meaning to Lent.
As I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve found that when our sole focus is on what we give up or what we add, we often lose perspective on the magnitude of what Christ’s resurrection represents.
Lent should be a season when we set aside time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
But how do we prepare our hearts?
For me, it’s reflecting on God’s holiness,
“And the LORD said, …You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)
asking God to make me aware of my sin,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139: 23&24
and repenting of that which separates me from God.
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51: 4 & 11
It’s also helpful to think through why sin matters in the first place and why I need to be forgiven.
Sin is when I reject and do not follow God’s ways, when I live for my own glory and ease instead of living for God’s glory. Even when I want to stop sinning, my flesh, as Paul states in Romans, constantly trips me up.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18
When I realize the magnitude of how much my sin separates me from God, I am in awe that He would find a way to make a relationship with me happen. I am in gratitude that His love for me never changes despite the error of my ways and all I must do is accept the gift of steadfast love He extends to me! Spending the Lenten season in a posture of repentance and gratitude helps me more fully celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
How do you prepare your heart for Easter’s celebration?