I don't get the whole Lent Thing. Recently, I said so on Facebook and was surprised by the number of comments. I hadn't even heard of non-Catholics observing Lent until a few years ago. Since I wasn't a Catholic, it really wasn't on my radar. Except to shake my head in wonder at Mardi Gras.
Near as I can figure, for non-Catholics, Lent is about fasting and/or sacrifice. I think that, for most of my closer friends who observe Lent, the idea is that you give up something as a gift to God and to better enable you to focus on Him.
Now, I've got nothing against that.
In fact, that sounds like the Christian life to me!
The part I don't get is the "just for 40 days" part.
33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14)
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9)
Now, I don't believe you need to live in a cardboard box to be Jesus' disciple, but I do believe He's clearly saying that if there is anything that is a barrier between you and He, toss it. That everything you have is truly at His disposal.
I don't believe that Jesus means that you can't have a spouse and children, a home to live in...but I do believe He is saying, deny yourself - daily. Every day, put to death your own desires and live for Mine.
Here's the thing about Lent - and so many other "religious practices." They're a mere shadow of what every Christian really has - and should be doing - in Christ.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2)
Giving up something for 40 days - nearly 11% of a year - is a shadow of a beautiful reality: surrendering your whole life to Christ.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5)
When I was united with Christ in the likeness of His death, I was raised a new woman in Him! (Romans 6) I was raised a disciple of Christ.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As a disciple, 40 days a year is not an option.
The other day, my 4 year old asked me if I would play mother and daughter with her. Often, she and her 5 year old sister play "sisters." I hope that sounds funny to you - because it is funny. There's no need for us to play "mother and daughter." By legal and biological definition, we are mother and daughter.
Likewise, there's no need for me to sacrifice something for 40 days for Jesus.
If I'm a disciple, by definition, I do that every day.
To be sure, I do not do this perfectly every day. I don't do this every minute of every day. Very frequently - every day, I am before the throne of God repenting for those things that I did not sacrifice - those times when I wasn't carrying a cross but my own pride. I do not claim to live sacrificially every moment of every day - but I couldn't be a disciple of my Lord if I wasn't working at it every day.
Sacrifice for the Lord is not a Christian function for a mere 40 days a year ordained by a human religion. It's a way of life. It's the very definition of a Christ follower.