In the Christian Church, Lent is a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Sometimes people give something up, fasting from a specific food or activity to help them focus on God. Others take something on, like a spiritual practice, to bring them closer to God. It is often used as a time for people to prepare for being baptized and/or becoming members of a church.
The timing of Lent varies from year to year. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Lent begins 40 days prior, always on a Wednesday known as Ash Wednesday. Many people celebrate Carnival, Mardi Gras, and Shrove Tuesday in the days and weeks leading up to Lent. A time of excess and celebration is in stark contrast to the penitential period of Lent. In many churches, Christians receive the sign of the cross made out of ash on their foreheads. They wear it to remind them that “from dust we have come, and to dust we shall return.”
Ash Wednesday is my favorite day on the liturgical calendar. I love the symbolism of it. I love how my thumb and fingers get totally black from drawing crosses on foreheads. I love wearing the cross on my forehead. Each cross ends up looking as unique as the one who wears it.
Every Lent, I think my life is going to be changed. More often than not, my life has not changed much, but for those years I allowed myself to be transformed by the power of God, my life changed dramatically:
1997- as I answered the call to ministry
2001 -as I re-answered it when I decided to enter seminary
2003- as I sought the healing I needed to deal with my parent’s divorce
2005-as I realized that somehow in the midst of dealing with a new job and my mom’s cancer, I had become a minister.
2009 – pregnant with my first child and wondering if I would make it until Easter Sunday without giving birth (I did)
2016- Undergoing chemotherapy treatments
2020 – Realizing I was burned out and needed to step away (spoiler alert: the pandemic hit, and I unlearned the lesson as we all learned how to do online church)
I remain hopeful each year during Lent that I will allow Jesus to transform me into who God has called me to be rather than clinging to my own desires to stay comfortable. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). May Lent 2022 be a time of transformation.