Lent has the most traction in people’s lives compared to the other seasons of the Christian year. For those coming from liturgical traditions, Lent seems to be the season that people do take a bit more seriously by giving something up or by attending special Lenten services at their local church.
These are good starting places, but Lent is concerned with a deeper observance, a deeper exploration of our lives, and a deeper striving toward union with God. Lent is intended to be a time of the year when we really take our faith seriously, when we train our souls, and get our prayer lives into shape. For so many of us, we fit faith into the spare moments of our lives. In the breaks between its major paragraphs and chapters, but Lent is a time to do the opposite, to fit every moment of our lives into the story of God.
Think of Lent not so much a time for a recreational interest in spirituality, but as a time of serious spiritual training. Every serious athlete trains for their sport on a regular basis. In the same way, all of us as Christians should be regularly exercising our spiritual muscles and living out our faith. However, when a special competition is approaching an athlete will often increase her or her training regime and work out at a level of intensity that would be impossible to maintain year around. The same could be said of Lent for the Christian, we are preparing ourselves for the biggest event of the Christian year, Easter, and we do that by getting ourselves into spiritual shape.
When we fail to take Lent seriously we usually fail to appreciate or understand Easter fully. Without a serious observance of Lent we may become like the toddler at a home coming party for soldiers. He knows that people are happy, but he really doesn’t understand why. He knows that the soldiers were gone and have come back, but he really doesn’t understand the price those soldiers or their families paid. He doesn’t understand what could have happened had they not come back. So he smiles and enjoys the day, but its eternal consequences pass him by. Such is the fate of the believer who fails to take Lent seriously. He understands that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration, but he entirely misses the depth, the passion, and the significance of the occasion.