Today begins Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Because observing Lent wasn’t a part of my upbringing nor is it something that I have regularly participated in as an adult, I am far from an expert on it. However, one key component of Lenten observance is that for the 40 days leading up to Easter an individual “gives up” something that they previously enjoyed in order focus the person’s time, energy and attention more on Christ and the Cross. They are disciplining their hearts, minds and even their body with the objective of preparing themselves to more fully appreciate the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on His children’s behalf.
For many, however, Lent has become a 40-day purging process. Instead of a sacrificial act with the purpose of gazing at Christ more fully, it has become something of a springtime New Year’s resolution – focused on themselves and not on their Savior. Perhaps this is because we are unaccustomed to the nature of true sacrifice and so the things that we offer are merely tokens in order to “live better” rather than meaningful expressions in order to “die better.” After all, the Christian life is about dying to ourselves for the sake of God’s purpose and plan. Lenten sacrifice is intended to help us do this to a greater extent – which is hard to do if our “sacrifice” doesn’t cost us a thing. If we’re only to give up that which is inconsequential for the sake of God’s Kingdom, it is hard to see how we will truly die to ourselves in over to live for Him.
As we look to Easter, we are reminded of not only of what Christ accomplished on the Cross – but all that He gave up in order to do so. He gave up the riches of Heaven in order to engage His enemies in a war of love. He left the Place where He was honored and praised for a world that would despise and condemn Him. He sacrificed all so that we might have all. And as we follow in His footsteps may we know that the purpose of our sacrifice is the same as His – to bring people into a redeemed relationship with our Heavenly Father so that they may enjoy Him forever.