"Lent itself was a tradition practiced by the early church. In the 600s, under the papacy of Gregory the Great, Lent became a 40-day period of time (not including Sundays) that helped the church prepare for Easter. It was marked by fasting and by denying oneself of pleasures normally engaged in during the other 325 days of the year. In the early tradition, Christians ate only one meal per day, in the evening. For others it was fasting until noon or 3:00 p.m.
Most traditions included some form of fasting from meat. During Lent, the early church skipped meat, fish, and animal products. In other words, they went vegan for 40 days.
But today, it is sort of a self-help gig for many. I confess to using Lent as a way to prepare for swimsuit season. What could it hurt to skip all the sweets in the name of Jesus? Perhaps if I did it for Jesus I would fit into that swimsuit come Memorial Day. And then I remember that Jesus really does not care how I look at my community pool." ('From Fat Tuesday to a Veggie Lent' by Tracey Bianchi 02-16-2010. God's Politics Blog/Sojourner's Magazine)
Not everybody knows what Lent even is, many Christians think that it's nothing but some "Catholic thing." I read somewhere that at one time, Holy Saturday, the day before Easter was set aside for adult baptisms. The 40 days prior were used for adult chatecism instruction, and that is part of why Pope Gregory may have wanted people preparing their hearts and minds for Easter.
My girls are glad we're Lutheran because they can't stand fish. They feel sorry for their Catholic friends. I on the other hand loved the annual fish fry benefit for our town's volunteer fire department. It wasn't much of a sacrifice to me. I piled my plate high with the most delicious Alaskan Pollak, Atlantic Cod and Southern fired catfish I could handle.
The only fish my daughters would eat is the popcorn shrimp. Frankly, at market prices, I think that it would be more of a self-denile to heat steak than to indulge in shrimp (and many other types of seafood) every Friday.
Never the less, it is a great idea to consider the massive struggle and sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, to cut back on some of the things that may have started to take control of your personal time and attention, and to thank God for all the luxury and affluence that we enjoy that most of the world can barely imagine. I for one am trying to use Lent as a second-chance to keep all those New Year's resolutions that I'd already broken.
But why not make Lent a time to START doing something good for you, instead of just a time to give up doing things that are unhealthy. In other words, use Lent as a time to become a little more disciplined about your discipleship. Why should it be just about what NOT to do? Let's make Lent more positive, and proactive instead of negative and reactive. This Lent, DO something new, something to positively effect your relationships with God and with others.
You could commit to reading the Bible every day or setting aside time for prayer or devotions with God.
I have a friend who writes a short "Prayer-Point" devotion that she sends out to friends on a mailing list. (Her writing is a lot more concise than mine, 50-250 words as opposed to my 1,000 average). That is an example of doing something that helps her (and others) grow in faith during Lent. In one of her dispatches, she suggested reading a Psalm a day, another great idea.
I'm not disciplined enough to post a different suggestion every day for 40 days- you'll even notice that I'm writing this five days after Ash Wednesday, but I would like to post some different ideas for things you could try to make Lent a time of growing closer to God and hopefully going deeper in your relationship with Him.
Click here to read some posts about developing Spiritual habits. Including having daily TAWG. TAWG stands for Time Alone With God. Can you spare 15 minutes a day?