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Lent is a time to give as well as to deny

It feels strangely good to “give things up” for Lent.

We traditionally think of the season of Lent as a time of fasting and denial, as we journey with Christ to Golgotha. We remember where we have sinned, where we have “strayed from God’s path,” where we have “missed the mark.” We seek forgiveness and ask for a chance to again repent and take up His cross. I think of the old hymn, “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone ...and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.”

It feels strangely good to “give things up” for Lent. It often brings us to a healthier place on the other side of Lent, which really means spring. This is a season of preparation for celebrating Easter. As Jesus denied and sacrificed himself, so we follow Him and are drawn into His very heart.

Lent is also a time of forgiveness, both seeking it and giving it. We recall Jesus’ first words from the cross when in pain he uttered, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Mustn’t we do the same and also allow ourselves to be forgiven?

But within the word forgive lies the word “give.” What should we “give” the One who gave his very life? Some of us will take the action step of “giving” something of themselves to someone in need or to something of God. Volunteering, donating money, and contributing resources have people reaching out beyond themselves. Some will even put a dollar value on something they are giving up and contribute that accumulated value to a cause of Christ.

To make any of this work, we need to be steeped in prayer. This is not something we achieve on our own, but only with hands clasped and on our knees. It’s the “readying process” for the resurrection, including marking time for Him during “Holy Week,” the holiest week of the year.