When I first heard of the observance of “Lent,” I was a kid. I thought that it was a holiday about someone having loaned something to another person, much like a library book, and I considered it a strange thing to celebrate. Since then, I have heard sermons, read devotionals, and learned of people’s personal experiences with Lent. I know more about the subject now and I’ve come to realize a deeper meaning than that of my childhood ignorance.
While I could try to explain the origination of Lent here, I feel it would be more helpful just to say some simple items of interest about it. Lent is celebrated for 40 days, which is indicative of the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert at the beginning of his ministry. Traditionally, most people give up some type of food, like meat, for Lent. In recent years, people have talked about fasting in other ways, like giving up social media or chocolate (gasp!). Some have even said it’s a time to surrender a bad habit like gossip or lying, instead of something physical. Most will also say it’s a time to dive deeper into prayer and reading the Bible (which you can borrow from most libraries, speaking of loaning library books again).
This year when I heard the word Lent again, for some reason, my original misunderstanding from childhood came to mind again. Why was I still thinking of Lent as something that is on loan? An old idea came to me: God sent his Son. We know that, right? But change one little letter and you get: God “lent” his son. While it’s not exactly the way that it originated or how others may see the observance of Lent, I doubt I’m the first to make this connection. However, I want to dig just a bit deeper as a reminder to myself of what this thought means.
God lent his only Son to the world in physical form. We borrowed him for a short time. He was never ours to keep on this earth. He died, rose again, and went to his Father in Heaven (I know, I’m skipping ahead to Easter). And yet, the best part about this “loaning” arrangement is that he never really abandons us. We get to keep him in our hearts. We have eternal salvation. We receive grace, patience, love, and so much more, including the Holy Spirit (more about that at Pentecost time). This actually goes back to my childhood thought of Lent being about a library book: even though the book gets returned, the reader gets to keep all the thoughts that came from reading it. And ultimately, we’re promised a place next to Jesus in God’s library.
Are you planning to give up something for Lent? Maybe consider “loaning” yourself to God instead. Except when you do, try not to take yourself back like the library book. Give yourself fully and completely. You may have to do this every day throughout the season. (I know I often give myself fully, only to take control again). As you give yourself over to God, celebrate knowing that He lent Jesus to you so that you could be with them forever. Isn’t that the true gift of this whole season? Jesus: the best library book ever! Check Him out!
– by Lori Ottaviano, ABC member