Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and prayer that precedes Good Friday and Easter Sunday on the Church calendar. Going back to the early years of church history, Lent has traditionally been a time for personal abstinence and self-discipline. In the middle ages, it became particularly associated with a fast from eating meat. It developed into a teaching tool for the church and a reminder for all Christians: in your hunger, be reminded of all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed to win your salvation.
As you enter this season of Lent on your own or together with your family or community of faith, allow me to suggest that it’s not just about giving something up. It’s not only about sacrificing a certain type or amount of food or some other regular pleasure in order to participate in the sufferings of Christ or to remember his selfless preparation for the cross. At least as important is the idea and practice of taking something on, adding something new to your life in Christ.
Not only the surrender of material things, but the taking on of spiritual things, eternal things that draw us closer to Christ and, by the power of the Spirit, transform us more into his image is the best way to prepare for Easter. A new ministry. A new discipline. A new work for the benefit of others. A new prayer. A new friend. A new passage of Scripture. While you’re cleaning out your house over the next six weeks, pay attention to what you’re moving in to the empty spaces. Add something important. Commit to something Spirit-filled.