A Lenten Soul in a Mardi Gras World
I was musing about the season of Lent today because I noticed on the calendar that it was Ash Wednesday. When I was growing up, the church my family belonged to observed Lent (the 40 days before Easter).
As a kid, I went to our church school and every Ash Wednesday my teacher would go up and down the rows asking all of us students what our "Lenten Sacrifice" was going to be. That is, what we were going to give up for Lent.
The usual sacrifices we offered were to give up candy, television or fighting with our siblings.
I don't remember if I ever actually made it through those 40 days without regressing to my usual behavior. And knowing the kind of kid I was, I probably thought the whole thing was dumb.
But I wondered today about the reason for Lent.
You probably saw all kinds of news stories yesterday about Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and around the world. The party-like atmosphere, color, and excitement are just the type of story reporters love to cover. But, did you see any Ash Wednesday stories broadcast today?
Let's face it, stories of people with ashes on their foreheads or attending special church services aren't exciting. Who wants to talk about sacrifice, and death on a cross, and changing your life?
Mardi Gras is crazy, fun, self-indulgent celebrating. Lent is offering up what is wrong, what is sinful about ourselves and praying for change. Mardi Gras is purple, green and yellow. Lent is grey, the grey of ashes, the grey of a tomb, the grey of death.
Mardi Gras is instant gratification. Have a good time now, laissez les bons temps rouler! Lent is waiting, waiting for 40 days, commemorating a death, a sacrificial death, anticipating a resurrection, a resurrection that doens't celebrate us but celebrates a Savior.
How old fashioned is that? I have to wait? There's a celebration eventually, but it doesn't focus on me? That's what cultivating a Lenten soul in a Mardi Gras world is all about. Waiting and focusing on someone else, a Savior.