Today is Ash Wednesday.
Baptists, we’re generally non-liturgical people. Well, we have liturgy, we just generally wouldn’t call it that. Things like Lent and Ash Wednesday might get a passing mention, but they are generally approached with an observe-if-you-want type of attitude.
Nevertheless, in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Lenten season. What does it mean? What is the purpose of such a thing? Is it good? Well, after thinking about it for a bit, I think the practice can be beneficial (not that my opinion is the one that matters…). If the purpose of fasting is to remember what Christ suffered for us on the cross as we prepare for Easter, it seems to be good. The closer we get to a true understanding of the magnitude of what God has done for us, the more completely we will love and serve Him.
Ok, so I can agree that the Lent is a good practice, but what to give up? It seems that most people give up some kind of food, and often sweets. While that would be something of a sacrifice, I rarely eat or crave sweets, so it kind of seemed like a cop-out for me. So, I tried to think of a food I really love. Then it hit me – cheese. Cheese is by far my most favorite uncooked food (obviously not my favorite meal). In fact, Andy has taken to calling me the ‘Cheese Monster’ recently. Both in foods and by itself, it is just wonderful. But then I thought… Cheese? Seriously? Christ gave up everything for me, and it was all rightfully his. Here I am, giving up cheese, something I certainly can’t say I have a right to and definitely isn’t a necessity. It just seems piddly, laughable even, in comparison to Christ. These thoughts made me think of the following Scripture passage:
Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
But maybe that’s the point of Lent? Maybe even in just thinking about the practice it is starting to point my heart in the right direction?
Anyway, all of that to say, that I’m giving up cheese for Lent. Oh macaroni and cheese and pizza, how I’ll miss you. But Oh how much sweeter is my Redeemer and His sacrifice for me.
p.s. For those of you who are like me, and didn’t grow up in a Christian tradition that emphasized things like Ash Wednesday, here’s a YouTube video that one of my friends tweeted today that seems to give some pretty good background to the practice and the ideas behind it.