The forty days leading up to Easter are called “Lent” from the old English for “lengthen.” The Church would teach that as the days get a little longer, we should use that time to think a little bit more about Jesus and what he did to save us.
I think more Christians are using this season on their calendars than they used to. Lent was really for certain branches of Christianity who used the time as a fast—a way to remove some unhealthy element from their lives for a month or so, using the lack or hunger for that missing thing to remind them of Jesus and how he spent forty days in the desert at the beginning of his ministry.
My own tradition, the Reformed tradition, thinks about days and seasons a little differently. It’s more about what fills them than what is kept out. God appointed one day in seven to be filled with worship, praise and devotion as God is due. If a season is observed, it should be about what fills it up as much as what is kept out.
A healthy ecology does both things. It filters out impurities and it provides nutrients. That’s the best way for something to grow. As the forty days of Lent start today, if you want to use it on your calendar for a season that is just a little different, I’d say look at it not only as a time to keep the unhealthy out, but to let the healthy in.
I was in a leadership seminar last year and spent a morning with a nutritionist for executives. She told us we were going to eat. I knew that. We were going to eat about five to eight pounds of food every day. You can push that number down with effort, but over time it will average out to about the same. The question is really what food you use to fill those five pounds. Her recommendation was kale, kale and more kale. It’s as much about what goes in as what you keep out.
Here are a few healthy inputs:
Redeemer Pres in New York City put their forty day Lent devotional on YouVersion a few years ago. Why not fill yourself with a little more scripture? In fact, YouVersion Bible app has a bunch of Lent plans.
Our own church is pushing an effort to make it to church every Sunday while we study The Cross. You could follow along with us or make a commitment to weekly worship at your own church.
A healthy soul needs a healthy spiritual ecology. It’s not just about what you keep out, but what you put in. Fill up for forty days. Fill up with healthy, positive inputs. You might just find the unhealthy stuff loses appeal.