Before I went to college, I had a cloudy understanding of Lent. I knew it involved giving something up. Usually chocolate. Not my idea of a good time. But beyond believing that it was legalistic—and maybe even a little masochistic—I didn't know much.
My Lenten ignorance ceased my sophomore year when I started attending a church that observed Lent. So in the name of "taking one for the team," I decided to give up—you guessed it—chocolate. I, with my penchant for melodrama, braced myself for a stark and thorny 40-day journey. I survived.
My faith was not profoundly altered during that Lenten season. I didn't experience moments of sublime communion with Christ. But something small emerged from my heart.
Not from hunger or emotional trauma or exhaustion. I have rarely known weaknesses such as these. This was a weakness that grew out of a simple act: My feeble hands trembling, I gave God this sapling of an offering. Just chocolate. But something that I wanted, that I could no longer control.
The Holy Spirit rooted this small plant within me. But I had prepared my heart for him—a rich soil in which to grow. Putting ourselves in a posture of weakness is scary, but it is necessary for real growth. And like any plant that is cultivated, God can transform weakness from a feeble, shivering wisp into something bold and verdant.
Lent is all about weakness. It's about walking with Christ, remaining in him (John 15:4) as he enters the desert for testing. We, too, experience this testing, this "desertness," as we relinquish control of some of the trappings that bind our hearts from freely giving ourselves to Christ. This journey ultimately prepares us to meet Christ during the stark tragedy of his death, face our sinful role in this reality, and of course, celebrate the victory of Christ's resurrection.
I encourage you to try it by giving something to Christ during these 40 days, whether it's chocolate, TV, radio, Facebook, or something much more basic. Give gladly, with the knowledge that Christ can take your frail sacrifice and cultivate your heart for growth and abundance.
So why observe Lent? To find out what chains you from stillness and remaining in Christ and to prepare the rocky soil of your heart for the death and resurrection of Jesus.