Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remember That Time We Beat Ourselves Up? - Good Times

Ah... Ash Wednesday. The first day of the season of Lent. It's that mournful time of year where Christians everywhere give up the most important things to them, then take whips and beat themselves up everyday, are never allowed to smile, and then show off their scars to each other. The more scars the better!

OK... just kidding.

Kind of.

According to the all knowing Wikipedia:

Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayerrepentancealmsgiving andself-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(I actually kept on reading a bit... there is some interesting stuff in that article! I highly recommend reading up on it.)

It's a time period that has been recognize for .... I don't know, a kazillion years... in the Christian church. People have had several ways of recognizing Lent. On Ash Wednesday traditionally people will have ashes put on their forehead in the shape of a cross to remind them that "Dust you were and to dust you shall return" and can also symbolize our sin. Other churches (like the one I am at for example) do a remembrance of baptism. So instead of using ashes, they use water to make a cross on your forehead. 

Then during the actual time period of Lent, it is meant to be a time of reflection, sorrow, mourning, repentance, sacrifice, and meditation on Christ's sacrifice for us. Probably the most well-known way of recognizing Lent is to give up something. People give up, or sacrifice, something so they can reflect on Christ's sacrifice for us. 

Some people take up something. They might read their Bible everyday or read a devotional book, or start a good habit, pray more often, go to church on Wednesday nights, etc. Some people may donate money to their church or to a charitable cause. Many churches do not say "alleluia" or "hallelujah" in services during Lent and sing songs that reflect sacrifice and mourning. 

See? You're not allowed to be happy during Lent. Sorry. Just can't be done. 


I have no problem with Lent. Sometimes, it's one of my favorite parts of the church year. Some of the hymns, such as "My Song is Love Unknown" are some of my favorites. I love being able to really spend time focusing on what Jesus has done for us. It can be a beautiful time.

Giving up something or picking up a habit for Lent can be really good. It's healthy to get rid of old habits and go to without something for a time period. I'm all for adding good habits in as well. 

But here is my beef -

"OMG!!!!!!! I'm giving up painting my toe nails for Lent!!!!! It's going to be SO HARD. All of those pretty nail polish colors are tempting me JUST THINKING ABOUT IT! BUT... I love Jesus. So if He can die for me - I can give up painting my toe nails."


"I am giving up drinking water from my FAVORITE BLUE CUP. It's the best cup in the WORLD. Just... take it away. I can't handle this anymore! But it's going to make me a better person - because it's for Jesus! And it's LENT so I HAVE TO GIVE UP SOMETHING OR ELSE I'M A BAD CHRISTIAN!"

Sigh... really?

That's not the point.

"And when you fast, do not look miserable as the actors and hypocrites do when they are fasting - they walk around town putting on airs about their suffering and weakness, complaining about how hungry they are. So everyone will know they are fasting, they don't wash or anoint themselves with oil, pink their cheeks, or wear comfortable shoes. Those who show off their piety, they have already received their reward. When you fast, wash your face and beautify yourself with oil, so no one who looks at you will know about your discipline. Only your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18 The Voice

Recognizing Lent isn't something that we're supposed to be showing off and parading around. It's not about telling everyone in the world what you are giving up and how difficult it is. It's about putting your focus back where it needs to be. Really using it as a time of reflection and prayer. 

Not showing off our scars.

Now, can you tell other people what you are giving up for Lent? Sure. I've had discussions with people about such things, and that's OK. Like, if you are giving up Facebook for Lent, it's probably a good idea to give people a heads up so they don't think you're ignoring them. Or if you are giving up a certain type of food and you are going to a dinner party, you might want to inform your host of your diet so they can plan accordingly. Or sometimes you need to share something with a close friend, that's OK. You're allowed to do that. Heck, if you want to talk about it on your blog, that's OK.

But please, don't play the martyr. Don't show off what you are doing. Because if you are... then maybe you just shouldn't do anything for Lent at all. There is a difference between letting people know what you are doing and playing a martyr. 

So this Lent - if you choose to recognize it or not (and if you don't that's OK!) - I pray that you really use this as a time to focus on Christ. Who HE is. What HE has done. HIS WORD. HIS love for you. 

For other thoughts on Lent visit PM2's blog!


  1. i really enjoyed this girl. THANKS for the post!


  2. Such insight Emily! However, you may want to ignore my blog for the next 40 days! I'm doing a 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge where I'm getting rid of "stuff" in my house.

  3. This post is one of the reasons why I love your blog, AND you. I think these things every time Lent rolls around. Christians quite often seem all to eager to beat themselves up. I never really understood why we had to be so sad and somber when Jesus already died for our sins. Shouldn't we still be rejoicing?

    Also, I love the title of this blog. :)

    Miss you.

  4. yes, i loved reading this. thank you for educating and trying to shift the focus!

  5. Thank you Emily. Your devotion to Christianity and Christ is so very refreshing. Thank you.


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