By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Lent is comprised of forty days starting in February and leading up to Easter. For people who practice Lent within the Catholic tradition, Lent is a very sacred time where they sacrifice something for forty days to understand what Christ did when he died on the cross. Most Protestants, however, don't observe the holiday as seriously because it's related directly to the Catholic tradition, with some theological views opposed to Protestant beliefs. Simply because Protestants don't regularly practice Lent doesn't mean you can't start. Lent can symbolize a great time of reflection on Christ's death and help us become more like him in the process. Here are five ways to observe lent in your marriage:
One of the activities Jesus is known for before his death on the cross is his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, he prayed so hard he sweat drops of blood, asking God to allow him not to suffer so severely. Although God's response was No, and Jesus still had to have fulfilled the purpose of the atonement by his death and resurrection, you can use your time as a couple to pray and ask God for the deep things in your marriage you want to see.
Although God's answer may be "no" in some of these situations, he will honor you for taking the time to pray and ask him anyway. Pray fervently for your children, your finances, your health, and any other area in your marriage where you would like to see God do miraculous work. Whether God says "yes" or "no" is irrelevant. Commit to praying to God just as Christ did in the garden. You can choose to pray for one area per day for the next forty days until Easter, or you can choose one thing that you'd like to pray for consistently every day for the forty days. Regardless of the route you choose, God will honor your faithfulness to him as you present your requests to him. This will bring you spiritual growth and closer together as a couple.
Lent is a time when we observe the great sacrifice Christ made on the cross for us. No matter what religious denomination you belong to, Lent can be a very sacred time where you learn to sacrifice something specific to understand better what it means to be like Christ. It can be something as simple as desserts or social media, or it can be something more significant. The possibilities are endless. By giving something up for forty days when Easter arrives, you may find you don't miss that thing at all. Not only will the sacrifice of something you love helps you understand the great sacrifice Christ made, but it might also be better for your overall physical, spiritual, and mental health.
3. Love Your Enemies
Throughout the time leading up to his death, Christ demonstrated great love for his enemies. Jesus taught us many lessons about how to treat those who are against us. If you're unsure about what Christ did, take a moment and choose one of the Gospels to read through. You can read one chapter a day for the next forty days until Easter or read in a couple of days. Write down all the ways Jesus handled the Pharisees. Sometimes he spoke the truth and love, and other times he chose not to speak at all. While Jesus was full of grace, he was full of justice and truth as well. Jesus also struck an outstanding balance between humility and knowledge of his authority through his Father. We can also demonstrate these qualities during Lent. Asked the Lord to lay upon your heart a couple of people whom you might consider enemies. These might be unbelievers, family members, or others with whom you disagree. These can be people who have chosen to sever the relationship with you completely, or they can be people with whom you simply are prone to argue when you're around them. Ask the Lord to do miraculous work in that relationship. Christ is always about reconciliation, not division. Ask Christ to use this time during lent to reconcile you in a relationship with whom you felt there was no hope. Give the relationship over to the Lord, and do your best to reconcile.
4. Go to Church
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. This is a day in February when people go to church, and the priest anoints their forehead with ashes made in the sign of the cross. People wear them out for the day to commemorate their dedication to the Lord and his sacrifice. God made us out of the dust of the earth, and there will come a day when we return to the earth as dust. This is the outward symbol of this idea.
You can still choose to go to church during that week in remembrance of Ash Wednesday even if it's not on a Wednesday. Your church may not end with you receiving ashes, but you can go to church in a somber posture, remembering that we were made from dust and to one day dust we shall return. If your church has a prayer room, make a point to use it during the week and pray for the day in remembrance of the cross. Furthermore, to participate in Jesus' sacrifice, take a moment to be grateful for all the things God has given you and all the things God has spared you from throughout your life. Thank him for all the ways he's been present with you, even when you haven't seen or acknowledged him.
5. Discover Your Gifts
Jesus spent much of his ministry before his death healing the sick, driving out demons and helping those within his community. He dedicated his life to using his gifts to help people in this way. In the same way, you can choose to dedicate those forty days to discovering and using your spiritual gifts. There are many spiritual gifts inventories that you can take, both written and online, that will help you discover these. Even if you have taken a test previously, commit to take another one to see if any of those gifts have changed. Sometimes gifts change with your circumstances. God may heighten a particular gift in you now that he has not used in you before. Be in tune with the ways God wants to use you. Jesus was in tune with his Father and "could only do what he saw his father doing." Use these forty days to discover new ways God might want to use you both within your local church body and in the places God has you. In what ways could you use your spiritual gifts at your workplace? In your home? At your local church? Don't allow the Lenten season to go by without at least discovering your spiritual gifts and using them to the best of your ability.
The season of Lent isn't just for Catholics. Protestants can also utilize this season to become closer with God and with each other in their marriages. Dedicate yourself to using your gifts in your home to edify your spouse. Dedicate your forty days to sacrificing something to understand Christ's sacrifice better. Pray together and allow God to grow your love for him and each other. Use that love to love your enemies, forgive, and reconcile where appropriate. You may find lent is one of the most spiritual experiences of your life. Don't ignore it as simply a tradition only for certain denominations, but see the overarching concepts Lent celebrates, and she used to celebrate them as well.
Related Article: 10 Things for Couples to Give Up During Lent
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.