Today marks the beginning of Lent, forty days of sacrifice and prayer that are intended to bring Christians to a better understanding of Jesus’ self-sacrifice on Good Friday and the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Growing up, I thought our Lenten preparations were pretty rough. My friends and I would give up chocolate, there was always a strict “No Meat on Fridays” rule, and there were extra church services. The whole season seemed so somber.
As an adult, I now know more about the sacrifices that people who practice other religions undergo and I have a very healthy respect for them. Compared to day-long fasting from all food, prayers several times a day, or spending all day in religious services, I am happy to maintain the practices that I grew up with.
But I also look at Lent time differently. For me, I appreciate Lent as a prayerful way of beginning again and preparing for the growing season. Everyone needs a fresh start from time to time and to make the most of it I really have to identify where I’ve gone wrong and how I can do better. Modern living is too hectic to afford many opportunities at contemplation but these (perhaps) old-fashioned practices help put the brakes on, at least temporarily.