Why do this? Is it just some sort of legalism, trying to impress God or your religious friends? Or does it have some real spiritual value?
Lent, as most of you know, is a season on the Christian calendar, one where believers are preparing for celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, the most significant event in history. (If you're not familiar, much more is contained in the link to the word Lent.) In many more liturgical churches (such as the Roman Catholic Church), it is expected for members to conduct a Lent fast. But in my church and other Protestant denominations, participation is on an individual basis and is often surprising. ("You're not Catholic, are you??") But it's a tradition that has great value in my opinion. So here are reasons why I do it:
- This is a time of year to contemplate Christ's sacrifice. Every time I want ice cream and say no, I think about the cross. Now wait - not because I'm comparing my sacrifice to his! (Hope you didn't think that!) But because I think, "Why am doing this? Oh yeah." And when I do, I think about the season and what he did for me.
- It gives my brothers and sisters something to hold me accountable for. Accountability is good.
- On a related note, we don't give up or wait for nearly enough in our microwave society. It doesn't hurt to exercise a little discipline once a year.
- Ok, the next one is tricky. Sometimes the refusal of something I love causes people to ask why. I can then tell them about Christ and what he means to me. This is a very, very fine line, because Jesus cautions us against doing acts of righteousness to look spiritual. But with much prayer, I believe it can be done reflecting the glory to him and not me.
- Finally, Easter rocks even more when I do! Christ rose from the dead, giving hope for life to us who were destined for death. To me, getting something that I've been "dead to" for so long is a great symbol of that.
So it's Ash Wednesday morning. The first day of Lent. Is this something that appeals to you? If so, go for it!
Oh...ice cream? No, thanks.