Growing up I didn’t even know about Lent. The pentecostal congregational style of discipleship was based on two things. Reading the Bible, Prayers (public and private), and the work of the Holy Spirit (healings, prophecy, fillings, etc.). There was a lot of activity but there wasn’t a lectionary based movement from year to year. The main holidays that ordered the year were Christmas and Easter, but seasons like Lent or Advent were largely lost on us. I remember times of fasting, but they were not in the context of traditional seasons – they just happened as the pastor or the leadership team called for times of spiritual growth and maturity.
Then I ended up at a traditional Methodist church as a youth director. I’ve had the time to slowly acclimate to the traditional forms, and I’ve found that they are handy. (1) They remind us each year of some of the most important themes of Christianity. (2) I also like it that the reading of the whole Bible is possibly if one follows the lectionary for two years. (3) Repetition is the Mother of All Learning (as the Russians say), and the repetition each year helps me to try to get things right that I did wrong. Well, there is more, but my point is that I have grown to love the seasons of the lectionary.
Last year is the first year that I participated in Lent. Everyone immediately starts talking about what they are going to give up for the year. I figured that it should not be something easily given, so I picked television. At the time I was watching a lot of comedy programming in the evenings, and I felt it would be hard to do. So I did it. My wife decided that she would give up cheese (which turned out to be the hardest fast of all – cheese is on EVERYTHING). I read more than I have ever read in that time period. I felt more evenly balanced and had time to do other things. I saw movies, but that was only every once in a while at the theater and I felt that they were rewards for the time I was giving up elsewhere. It was a good time and I felt my spirit lifting a bit.
Then, I found myself a year later. Lent is upon me again in 2012 as it was in 2011. I asked my wife what we would be doing this year. She instantly mentioned that I should try giving up Video Gaming. She would give up deserts. I noticed that her options always have a health kick in them – which isn’t bad, God calls us to take care of our bodies (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19), so it works. I felt that I needed something different his year, however, and I noticed a different nuance of Lent that appealed to me. Rather than merely stripping something away, I could add some small things that would bring me closer to God. I thought about it a while and asked myself what I lacked spiritually and it came quickly.
Every week at youth group I encourage young people to read their Bibles regularly, pray regularly and spend time with God. I find that in the midst of working the ministry, I often find myself paddling the boat myself, never asking God to row a few. I end up struggling quite a bit and then I remember that I need to get back into the habit of regular Bible Study and prayer. I’m not talking about what I do for youth group devotions or studying for the Confirmation class I teach. I’m not even talking about the scripture I read as I write my articles for the local newspaper. I need to spend some time reading scripture that will speak to my soul. It is for me alone, from God, to my spirit. All the other work I do, I ask God to speak through me – in this, I realize I need God to speak to me.
So I started today. I am reading a Youth Devotional (I like Youth Devos because they are two the point and contain a lot of scripture) done by Josh McDowell, and it is on my phone. I always have my phone so I never have an excuse not to read, and the devotional includes a basic prayer that I may read and make my own. I like that.
So this Lent I have decided to add rather than subtract. I feel good about this and I’m excited where it will take me this year.