I grew up in the church, but none of the churches I grew up in practiced Lent. It wasn't until my twenties that I experienced Lent for the first time. Since then, I have grown to really appreciate it, and I learn something new from the Lenten season every year. I know there are a lot of Christians who, just like me, have never experienced Lent for themselves, and a lot of my non-Christian friends have no idea what I'm talking about. Therefore, I thought I'd share a few quick thoughts on Lent that will hopefully be helpful and encouraging to you.
1. What is Lent?
Lent is a season in the church calendar that falls right before Easter. It's a period of about 40 days (plus Sundays) that leads up to Easter Sunday. This year Lent begins on March 1. It's been a tradition in the church for centuries, but it's less common in non-denominational or non-mainline denominations. Typically Christians will give something up (fast from something like chocolate, coffee, or Netflix) and/or add a new discipline into their routine (e.g. prayer, reading the Bible, reading a new devotional during the season of Lent).
2. Why is it important?
The main purpose of Lent is to help us prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. It's an intentional season of refocusing ourselves, repenting from the areas in our lives where we've gone astray, and turning ourselves to Jesus. As someone who grew up never practicing Lent, I've really grown to appreciate it as an adult. I've grown to realize that it is less about "giving something up" and more about reorienting my life toward Jesus. It has made Easter much more meaningful and significant to me.
3. If I've never participated in Lent before, where do I start?
My advice would be to keep it simple. Pick one thing to give up during the season of Lent. It can be something as simple as chocolate. But it should be something that you actually crave on some level. For example, I could give up eating salad, but I hate salad and never eat it anyway, so that's not really giving something up. So pick something you crave (either food or otherwise), and give it up until Easter.
Secondly, I would encourage you to add a discipline to your routine that will help you grow closer to God in this season. If you aren't currently reading the Bible, I want to invite you to join me in my reading plan. I'm currently reading through the Bible in a year. And it just so happens that part 3 of this reading plan begins tomorrow. You can sign up for it by clicking this link right here. It takes about 10-15 minutes a day. I'd love for you to join me in this reading plan. It's also available on the YouVersion Bible app, so you can access it via computer or phone.
Finally, make sure that you know why you are doing this. It's not about what you are giving up, what you are adding, or what you are doing. It's about refocusing and realigning your heart and life toward Jesus. The reason why we give something up and/or add something new to our daily routine is to bring us closer to Jesus. So don't simply think about what you are doing, but also why you are doing it.
I hope that the season of Lent can be meaningful for you this year as your prepare yourself to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.