By Ian Acheson
|Photo courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org|
I observed Advent for the first time the Christmas before last and found it a wonderful practice in drawing closer to the Lord each day. I love learning and discovered so much in those 20 or so days. Plus I found my desire for intimacy with the Lord increased.
During the course of January and early February last year, the Lord gave me one of those gentle nudges that got me thinking about Lent. At the same time, I noticed a Lent study by Ruth Haley Barton, whose book, “Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence” I had just finished and so enjoyed. So I promptly ordered that study.
In addition, another Bible teacher I follow, Margaret Feinberg, mentioned she was planning something exciting for Lent. So I was hooked.
“’And yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart …’” (Joel 2:12)
Six weeks to focus more intentionally on the Lord sounded like a good plan.
What is Lent?
Well I didn’t know until I started the journey.
Ruth’s study provided some lovely insight that Lent “derives its structure and themes from Christ’s forty days’ in the wilderness, where He fasted and prayed and faced Satan’s temptations.”1 Okay, didn’t know that.
I particularly loved Ann Voskamp’s description in a post she wrote at the time:
Ann’s chatting to her brother on the phone answering his question:
“Okay … Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”
So it’s the letting go of our stuff, whatever that may be, so we’ll be even more desperate for Jesus to fill us.
Ha. I like that.
Fast forward to now
Observing Lent last year strengthened me in ways that I’ve only appreciated since it ended. Part of my experience was reading the entire Bible, which I’d never done. It left me with the enduring thought that God is just crazy about us and is never far away. I’ve been able to hold on to that through those discouraging days we all encounter when He seems especially distant.
So I’m doing it again working through a wonderful duo of books by Henri Nouwen, reading through the New Testament, and setting aside time each day just being still with the Lord.
But tell me, what are you doing for Lent?
Wishing everyone a Jesus-filled Easter.Notes: 1. Lent, A Season of Returning, Ruth Haley Barton, Transforming Resources, (Week 1)