I attend an Anglican mission church (PEARUSA, for them as keep track of such things), and Lent is kind of a big deal for us. But I don’t believe in Lent.
Why not? Well, Lent is a 40-day fast, a time to meditate upon and lament your sins. That is a great thing to do, but it’s badly imbalanced. When Yahweh Himself created a religious calendar, He had a time for fasting, meditating upon sin, and (as He put it) “afflicting your souls.” It was called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The operative word, for our purposes, being day. All the rest of the religious festivals in Yahweh’s calendar were parties. Under the Old Covenant, it was mostly through parties that you learned to fear The Lord (Deut 14:23). It cannot be that now, after the victory was won on Golgotha and the Messiah is ascended to the right hand of God until His enemies are made His footstool, now we get less celebratory and more into mourning and fasting.
You will say, “But Jesus did it! Jesus fasted 40 days; following Jesus is what Lent is about!” Yes. Yes, He did. Once. When He was 30. And He didn’t just give up ice cream and swearing, either. So fine, if you want to be like Jesus, go for it — fast for 40 days when you’re 30. If you live to 60, you can do it again.
Of course, meditating upon one’s sins really is a good idea, which is why God built it into His calendar in Yom Kippur. I don’t particularly observe the Jewish calendar, so Good Friday seems to be an appropriate day for that.
And yet here I am, part of a community that observes Lent. These are my people. We observe Lent. We have for centuries. Nobody will complain if I just blow Lent off — we’re not legalistic like that. But I don’t want to just blow it off. These are my people.
So how can I navigate this in a manner that is agreeable to my conscience? Well, this year, I settled on a positive Lenten observance. I can’t get my head round a 40-day period of mourning and flagellation, but I certainly can get my head around a 40-day period of waiting and receiving from God. So I selected a stack of books for devotional reading — about 900 pages altogether — that I’m committing to get through during Lent. It’s enough of a load that I will have to alter my lifestyle to get through it. I’ll end up giving up something for Lent, just in the course of re-prioritizing to get through the reading. A few weeks into it, I’m well into the 900 pages — definitely on track to finish before Easter. But I’m honestly not sure what I gave up.
Whatever it was, I don’t miss it. But God’s giving me a ton.