I grew up going to Baptist & Methodist churches (we moved 5 times during my childhood), but I specifically remember the first time my family recognized Lent. For most of my childhood, Lent, the ashes, eating only fish on Fridays, all of that was foreign to me…only my Catholic friends would do those things.
For spring break growing up, my extended family and I would camp at James Island in Charleston, South Carolina. There was this delicious soda fountain we would go to at least once during our week together. One day at lunch (I was in 6thgrade, I believe) everyone was talking about what flavor ice cream they were going to get (chocolate chip cookie dough here!) and I remember my aunt saying she wasn’t going to get any. Now, this woman loves ice cream. So, for her to pass up ice cream, I’m pretty sure the Earth stopped rotating for a few minutes.
I asked her why she wasn’t going to have ice cream and she explained that she was giving it up for Lent. I honestly replied back, “Oh I thought that was only for Catholics.” That led into a discussion that many Baptists, and Christians in general, have. Who should “celebrate” Lent, what do we do (or don’t do), and why recognize Lent?
Well, instead of me answering these questions, check out this great blog post from Alan Rudnick, who is way more qualified than I, to explain as to Why Baptist Should Celebrate Ash Wednesday (and Lent, in general).
So, why do I bring up this topic? I was at the grocery store on Sunday buying items for the kids’ Ash Wednesday activity and this lady behind me asked if I was making dirt cups (I had chocolate cake mix, pudding, and gummy worms…yes, might seem like an odd combo for Ash Wednesday, but just hang tight!). I told her what it was for and she was surprised that Baptists do the ashes. She admitted to coming to church very irregularly and asked what the ashes were all about anyway.
I’ve thought a lot about that conversation in the past couple of days. My perception of Lent has changed a lot since my first interaction in the 6th grade, as it seems like everyone gives up something for Lent these days. It feels now to me that it’s just a part of culture to “do Lent.” In college (I went to UCF, not a religiously affiliated university), it seemed like my peers used it as a good reason to give up junk food and lose weight; now the ever popular sacrifice is social media. My new friend from Publix even admitted to giving stuff up, but not exactly sure why she did it.
So, why do we recognize Ash Wednesday & Lent? Ultimately (and very simply put), Ash Wednesday is to recognize our sins and the need for forgiveness. Lent is the season (40 days) to prepare our hearts and minds for Holy Week and Easter. You can use the time of Lent to get right with God.Traditionally, you chose to focus on one thing to give up during Lent, but it can be so much more than that. When preparing our kids for Lent, focus on three pieces during this time – prayer, giving, and fasting.
I find it extra special that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year. A day we recognize love is also a day we recognize our sins and need for a love far greater than any earthly love. And that love is free – no strings attached!
I leave you with this question – how will you practice Lent this year? This is my last blog post as a staff member; as I am transitioning to be a full time stay at home wife & mom, and I want to stress how important it is that we make a daily effort to constantly improve our relationship with God. No matter what life has thrown at us, or we might be angry with God, or we might be frustrated with church, I encourage you to really use the next 6 weeks of Lent to make your faith stronger.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you as a staff member the past two and a half years. I look forward to now serving alongside you.
Many blessings and Happy Lent,
Minister of Community Outreach
P.S.: Here’s a link to the kids’ Ash Wednesday chocolate cake activity. I love, love, love doing this with kids. My prayer is that it sticks with them as they continue to grow in their faith.