I was a little girl, maybe eight years old. We were
Episcopalians at the time, so all my friends from Sunday School had been
talking about what they were giving up for Lent. Forty days of deprivation,
with lots of speculation as to whether it was cheating to eat (because as a
kid, it was almost always food of some sort that we gave up) the desired item
on Sundays.

At school, I asked a friend the same question. “I’m a
Baptist,” she replied. “We don’t believe in Lent.”

“Why?” I asked.

She said she needed to ask her mother. The next day, she
reported, “We don’t believe in Lent because we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us
every day of the year.”

I didn’t know what to say.

Every year, when Ash Wednesday rolls around, I remember
that conversation as I try to decide if and how I will observe Lent. I’m no
longer an Episcopalian, so my church life is not governed by the liturgical
calendar. I know that God has not commanded me to observe 40 days of Lenten
fasting. And yet I also know that Christians have done so throughout the
centuries as a means of remembering the cross and preparing for Good Friday.

And so I observe Lent, as a way of joining with Christians throughout the centuries and around the globe in the weeks that lead up to our Easter celebration.

Last year, I gave up alcohol. It was a good way of focusing my mind and attention upon Jesus’, a helpful tool to turn my thoughts to his sacrifice on the cross. And when I think back to my friend’s point, I realize that if I gave up alcohol (or anything else) all year long, it would cease to be connected to Jesus and just turn into one more aspect of my life.

This year, I’m not giving anything up. Instead, I’m planning to meditate on the cross and the meaning of the cross by reading the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Jesus’ death has become more wondrous to me with time, but it has also become more puzzling. Perhaps the puzzle is a healthy recognition of mystery. But still, I’m planning to use the next six weeks to consider what happened that day on the outskirts of Jerusalem. I’ll be posting my thoughts and questions on a weekly basis.

How about you? Do you observe Lent? Are you giving something up? Taking something up? Why?

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