Up until more recently than I’d like to admit, the most I knew about Lent was the mysterious time of year when a banner was strung out over the road as you came into town, announcing the “Kiwanis’ Lenten Fish Fry EVERY Friday Night!” And as mysteriously as it appeared, it disappeared. That, and Lent was a Catholic thing.
Have I ever told you that ignorance drives me crazy?
Have I ever told you that I also love irony? Especially when irony collides with my own ignorance.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Lent is more than a fish fry on Fridays.
Have I ever told you what it feels like to have reality, dark reality, sink in deep? I’m a slow learner.
40 days to the cross.
40 days to the reality of a brutal death.
40 days of remembrance of my own redemption.
Lent is not just a Catholic thing, but a catholic thing.
I’ve thrown myself into the traditional observance of Lent (because I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl). I’ve done 40-day devotionals, set aside more time than usual to be quietly meditative, fasted from certain foods, soda, and social media.
Until this year.
This year, I pondered if I had let my fasting become a fad, the cool “Lent-thing” to do. I ran across a blog article by Karen Ehman before Lent began that introduced a new viewpoint for me. One that I thought might take me out of the Lent-rut I was in. It’s called “The Reverse-Lent Challenge” and includes ideas such as jotting a note, making a phone call, lightening a load, helping a stranger—small acts of service to do for each day of Lent. After I shared the concept with my husband, he pointed me to this Scripture passage:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” —John 13:3-5 (ESV)
Taking a towel. Jesus took something on in order to serve others.
That’s how I have chosen to approach Lent this year. Backwards. Taking on, instead of giving up.
After three weeks in, it hasn’t always been easy. Some people aren’t easy to serve. Going back to Jesus’ towel, there are some who make you want to throw it in, some you want to make cute animals for, some you want to snap sharply. The way I have decided to serve others is small, yet has been challenging. It has even been a sacrifice; surprising, not in its physical difficulty, but in the laying down of pride I didn’t know existed. Attempting to demonstrate the same kind of humility Christ showed to not just the ones who exhibited their love for him, but to the ones who denied and betrayed him (who often were one and the same.)
Sacrificing, whether by giving up or taking on. Sacrificing to remember the ultimate Sacrifice.
Isn’t that the point of Lent?