Most Christians and many non-Christians observe Lent, traditionally held during the six weeks before Easter Sunday. These 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday are a commemoration of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of His public ministry, in which He endured temptations by the devil.
The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance, self-denial and most importantly, in giving oneself to others. The institutional purpose of Lent is to heighten the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many of the faithful and not-so-faithful speak of Lent as a time to give up luxuries as penitence and make lifestyle changes for the better. Maybe it’s time to talk about those areas of prayer (justice toward God), fasting and focusing (justice toward self) and giving of one’s self in kindness and perhaps financial support (justice toward neighbors).
Maybe it’s really time to not just “give something up for Lent,” especially secular aspects like chocolate, smoking, bad words, gossiping, spending too much or a million other tangibles. Maybe it’s really time to think about all we can give.
We have the ability to make everything that we do be an example of the Christ-like values of humility, love and unselfishness to those around us to bring the traditions of Lent forward.
Consider the following ideas and then add some of your own.
First, let’s get rid of all the grumpy people we come in contact with, including ourselves. Let’s try to make every day special for those we love, work with and, yes, those we may not even know. A smile and a pleasant greeting go a long way to making someone and yourself feel good. More importantly, it exemplifies the spirit and teachings of Christ.
Consider reaching out to family members, neighbors we seldom see and those we come in contact with routinely. Time is something we seem to have in short supply, but a little time to listen, wisely counsel and pray with or for someone who needs you is giving up more than tangibles in your life. You are giving something that may be priceless in another’s life just when they need it most.
Consider reaching out and extending a hand or ear to those you work with. In your careers, you will meet many people, and all are significant. It is important to learn to greet everyone by their first name; it shows others the values you represent.
Consider dedicating as much time to your children as possible. They will become what you model for them. The most important job parents will ever have is raising their children with solid, Christ-like family values. Instilling values in our kids is much more than the silliness of “counting to three.” It’s spending time with them, not just playing but teaching them positive life and learning skills. Giving our time for this reason on a daily basis is real penitence.
Let’s all observe the traditions of this most important season leading up to the Holy Week, which culminates with the celebration on Easter Sunday of the resurrection of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s not forget the solemnity of these 40 days and what it means to pray, reflect, be penitent and focus on making changes to reflect Christ’s values and teachings in our lives. But remember that this special time of the year offers all of us opportunities to not just seek changes in us personally but to use those changes to improve others’ lives and live out the teachings of Christ by example.
Need help? Have questions and need to speak with someone who really cares to figure out the answers? A Stephen Minister can help with that. They get it. They are trained men and women right here in your community who care about you. For a confidential, gender-sensitive, one-on-one, caring, Biblically principled appointment with a Stephen Minister, call 912-320-7840.
The Stephen Ministry is a worldwide non-denominational caregiving ministry. Learn more at Stephenministry.org.
Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.