It’s Lent again—the 40- day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter, those six weeks (approximately) on the church calendar observed by Christians as a period of preparation and repentance before the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Many Christians observe Lent by adopting the traditional practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in some new, intentional, and focused way.
I recently read an article by Methodist pastor and theologian Clifton Stringer in which he makes the following point: Lent is not New Year’s Resolutions Round Two! Stringer points out that we live in a culture so fixated on self- improvement that Lent can sometimes become nothing more than an opportunity to work on ourselves, even to the point where our Lenten fasting becomes a Lenten “diet.” But Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus.
Stringer writes, “In Lent we might give up something, do a specific prayer discipline, or change something to push ourselves spiritually. But the point is not self-improvement. The point is not even just self-denial. The point is to feel a little discomfort, a little pain, and by that to be constantly reminded of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, who denied himself for our salvation.
If you observe Lent with prayer and fasting, use that prayer and fasting first of all to remember Jesus. If Lent is not about getting to know Jesus Christ better, it really is a waste of time.” (Ministry Matters, February 2012).
I love the notion of observing Lent as a time for getting to know Jesus Christ better. Of course, that’s something we strive for all year long. But Lent affords us the opportunity to focus our thinking, our speaking, our praying, our giving, our reading, and our service in ways that intentionally draw us closer to our Lord. Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus. May our prayer this Lent echo the words of Richard, Bishop of Chichester: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Amen.”