The Beginning and End of Lenten Disciplines
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is a period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) until Easter. Traditionally, Christians (as least in the liturgical denominations) have given up something for Lent to participate in and better understand the sacrifice of our Lord. This sacrifice is supposed to bring one closer to God as He fills the need or desire otherwise fulfilled by the thing given up.
Some people give up a food item, such as chocolate, all desserts, coffee, or meat. Others give up watching TV or going to movies. One might also give up driving and determine to take public transportation everywhere. There is an endless variety of things one can give up, or sacrifice, during the Lenten season.
For me, giving something up has never brought me closer to God. Instead, it causes me to focus more on the thing I’m feeling deprived of. The emphasis becomes physical rather than spiritual.
I prefer to commit to doing something every day for Lent, such as blogging or writing a poem, reading the Bible, or doing a random act of kindness. For me, that commitment is the beginning of discipline.
So if committing to doing something every day for Lent is the beginning of discipline, what is the end of discipline? It is to develop a closer relationship with God. The true end of discipline is a relationship with God that results in an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
For the writer, the discipline of writing with a focus on matters of faith requires the writer to meditate on God. A closer connection with and a better understanding of our Lord are inevitable.
The discipline of reading the Bible every day will draw the believer closer to God, so that they may hear when He speaks to them. It is much easier to discern God’s will if one knows God’s Word.
The discipline of committing random acts of kindness will have a ripple effect of bringing more love and compassion, the very essence of God, into the world. The end result may even be that the recipients of your kindness come to know God better.
So what do you plan to do, if anything, for Lent? Have you ever done something for Lent in the past, and if so, what was the result? Did it bring you closer to God? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Whatever you decide, I pray you will draw closer to our Lord as we approach the celebration of His death and resurrection.