Tradition has a way of forming us.
I didn’t come from a tradition that focused on or even defined Lent. Growing up, I remember our neighbors coming home on Ash Wednesday with crosses on their foreheads and wondering what that meant. These same neighbors went to a church whose youth group presented a Good Friday reenactment that marked me in a significant way. Following along through The Way of the Cross on a usually cold and wet Indiana Good Friday is something I still remember vividly years later.
I have wrestled with Lent. It feels like a march towards death—rightfully so. As such, Lent has always seemed to have an edge to it.
At the same time, I wasn’t really sure if giving something up did much in the way of preparing my heart for Easter. But a few years ago, I came across this idea that, “Lay something down, pick something up.” It intrigued me. Set aside something that will cost you, and pick something up that will form you.
“ Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
That same year, 2017, I was asked to contribute something to the She Reads Truth Lent Study. I was assigned a passage from Isaiah and wrote it weeks in advance of the day it would post. Sensing this was a Lenten invitation, I gave up reading fiction and picked up reading the SRT Lent Daily Devotional instead.
That year, Lent began on February 27. I wrote this post the morning of February 23.
And a few hours later Mike’s heart stopped.
I spent the entire season of Lent 2017 beside Mike’s hospital bed begging God for a miracle. We went back to church for the first time as a family on Easter weekend—knowing without a doubt that God still does them.
Lay something down. Pick something up.
It took on a new meaning.
This year I am focusing on being wholehearted—being fully committed to the LORD. Maybe that is why I could sense the nudge from him to reengage Lent as a season of laying something down and picking something up.
With shades of PTSD swirling around my heart from 2017, I am once again laying down reading fiction for 40 days. In its place I’m reading a devotional by Paul David Trip (Journey to the Cross) and the biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.
A few days in I’m mourning and aching. Longing for comfort. Looking for hope.
Knowing full well, resurrection is coming.
P.S. I’m going to write on Wholehearted Lent over the next few weeks! I hope you will join me. I’d love to introduce you to my friend Rebeca who shared this idea for Lent with me back in 2017. She is a brilliant, thoughtful writer! Find her here.