Who would like to spend 40 days away from friends, family and food? Now, all extreme introverts may say ‘yes’ and extreme extroverts may respond ‘no way’. I’m not even commenting on the issue of food and fasting. Yet, this is what Jesus did, Lent finds it’s genesis in the life of Jesus. The story in the Gospels tells us that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil for 6 weeks and most importantly, that Jesus came out of this desert experience renewed and focused on doing God’s will (Matthew 4 v1-11). If you want to see the story you can go to YouTube and see The Miracle Maker cartoon ‘Jesus temptation’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjU4yCFDaG8).
Taking time out to reflect on our life and purpose is important. Most of us can’t manage 6 weeks, although the idea of reflecting on life and purpose is attractive for many in postmodern society. So, when believers today observe Lent we are mirroring what Jesus did. People often give up stuff: food, alcohol, chocolate etc. Yet, the idea is really about spiritual values and discovering God in the difficult and hard areas of life. I remember working in Bosnia and meeting the local Orthodox Priest. He wanted to offer me a feast, but told me he couldn’t because we were meeting during Lent. Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, fish and alcohol during Lent and I remember feeling a slight embarrassment, because I’d not actually given up anything like that, food on established military operations can be very good indeed, and so my observance of Lent was meagre in comparison, despite time away from family, friends and home comforts for 6 months due to God’s calling me to serve in the British Army.
Lent, those 40 days before Easter, is when we can can choose to change the pace of life, the monotony and the sameness of each day and week. Yes, we can give up things, such as alcohol (something I am doing this year, my intention is that each time I fancy a glass of wine, I’ll chat to God), but the important thing is to cultivate those times in the day when we can just stop, be in silence, read the Gospel stories in the Bible and talk to God. It may be that you could choose to drop a meal, or a coffee and cake time, and instead pray and read. My suggestion is that by doing this, we will be enriched, like Jesus was, having developed spiritually and know God, who is closer to us than our very breath.