As we approach yet another week of our Lenten season I became curious as to what Lent meant to various believers. As you may have guessed, I got an array of answers. For some, Lent was a time of giving up, sacrificing, or time spent alone. Some new converts or believers didn’t know much about this sacred time; they believed that only Catholics celebrated Lent. And yet others did not believe in it at all.
It was so refreshing to hear the myriad of responses. Of course we know one’s upbringing, culture, and denomination or belief system play a major role in how we enter into the Lenten season.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what Lent meant until 1997 when I joined a church whose denomination was Disciples of Christ Christian Church. After 30-plus years of being Missionary Baptist, I was skeptical about the imposition of ashes on my forehead and opted-out.
Needless to say I became very curious about Lent and its true meaning. Throughout the years, I’ve learned what Lent really means. Moreover, I have discovered the secrets of Lent and the spiritual power that is connected to it.
Lent is a time for reflection, contemplation, and preparation. To reflect means to reveal our lives or the ways in which we have live, where we have been and where we are going. It is a time when God will reveal you to you. Have your ever seen your face? No! No one has ever seen their face. What we have seen is a reflection of our face from the mirror, but not actually our face. Yet, you can see all the other parts of your body, e.g., your arms, hands, mid-body, legs, and feet, but you cannot see from your neck up. Have you ever wondered why? It’s simply that Jesus is the head and we are the body of Christ. In fact, we are the called agents to care for the matters of God here on earth, which includes generosity and acts of kindness to all people.
Lent is also about seeds of contemplation; it is a time where we discover who and whose we are and where our journey is taking and leading us. It is a time to make important decisions. Should I go back to school and get my degree? Should I really try for my Ph.D? Should I get married this year? Do I buy this car or should I purchase my home? Better yet, should I start my own business? So many decisions! However, the question one should be asking is how can I better serve my community? The operative word here is “serve.” Jesus challenges us not to be like the pretenders, everything we do must come from the heart not looking for payment in doing any form of charitable giving.
Lent is also a time of preparation for your “what’s next.” This is a crucial time when God will direct you to your next destination, elevation, and/or formation.
I have discovered there are three major secrets of a spiritual breakthrough: Giving, praying, and fasting! I am reminded of the Matthew 6:1-18, one of Jesus’s inaugural speeches, Sermon of the Mount, where he teaches a remnant of believers the power of giving alms, praying, and fasting.
The first thing Jesus warns us as believers to do during this Lenten season is “to be careful” (cautious) not to practice our righteousness (our holiness, faith walk, and justice) before men and women like the hypocrites do to be seen. If you do, you have received your reward “paid if full” (your blessing right then). In essence, everything we do in the Lenten season ought to be in secret before God, not in a boastful or solemn stance.
In this season of Lent, our giving ought to be authentic and done in a clandestine way. If you have to boast to everyone all you have done for the needy albeit family or strangers, your charity is in vain. The Bible suggests to us that we should never let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. In essence, what you do for another is between that person and God. In fact, we should never give to be seen, but be seen giving by God.
Another spiritual breakthrough is praying. I know there are some folks who struggle with praying as they feel they do not know how to pray. Can I tell you that praying is simply having a conversation with God? It is not some fancy list of words or special phraseology. Jesus warns against this as well for it is also a way folks try and draw attention to themselves and their motives for praying are impure full of pollution. Guess what? They have received their reward ‚Äì paid in full by men/women and not by God, for hypocrites desire their praise from men and not from God.
And lastly, fasting is an important discipline in the Lenten season. It is a time of penitence, a time of repentance, when we turn from those things that causes us to sin against God. When we fast, we do so unto God.
It is not for us to brag about our fast; fasting is a lifestyle not a practice. I challenge each of you to give, pray, and fast consistently in and out of season and watch God move and act on your behalf. I am not saying you will get an instant fix, but with perseverance, trust, and faith God is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine, for if you believe you can receive and achieve all you set your heart to.
The author is senior pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Baltimore