Easter weekend in the South is always quite an affair. Any proper Southern girl debuts her brand spankin’ new Easter dress, a product of long hours spent online shopping or perusing what the local mall has to offer. As for guys, well, they usually break out the bowties and button-downs in varying shades of pastels. Easter in the South means chocolate (and lots of it – we ain’t ashamed), flowers, Facebook feeds clogged with “Happy Easter!” [insert flower and bunny emojis] or “Easter Sunday with the fam” photos, He is Risen yard signs, and color EVERYWHERE. It’s become quite the cultural event, especially for college students. One hallmark of Easter season is when friends start talking about what they are going to give up for Lent. This is a fairly common occurrence across denominations, even though it originated as part of the Catholic celebration of Easter. For those that genuinely choose to participate in a Lent fast, social media, chocolate, or caffeine are often the targets of this time of “sacrifice.” Some college girls see Lent as the perfect excuse to begin their annual diet.
However, the real reason for Lent is to further one’s relationship with God by attempting to understand, albeit in a minute way, His sacrifice for mankind. Lent mirrors Christ’s fasting during temptation and is a picture of how much He gave up for you and me. Lent is usually a period of 40 days leading up to Easter; scripturally, 40 day periods served as preparation for something to come. Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
So what does this have to do with me?
What sacrifices did I make this past Lent season, or can I make in the future, to be a better person? Maybe you’re not into the whole “God” thing. Maybe you find the resurrection of Christ hard to believe. That’s a certainly understandable and valid viewpoint; nevertheless, one man’s sacrifice for the lives of many ought to inspire me to live in a selfless manner, regardless of my personal religious beliefs (or the lack thereof). What can I give up to grow as a person, whether I’m catholic, protestant, or couldn’t care less about either one of those lifestyles?
That said, what does this have to do with Southern, college student me?
As I pondered the idea of giving up something for Lent, all the options that came to mind certainly made me cringe a little on the inside. Netflix. Nutella, breakfast of champions. Chick-Fil-A. Starbucks. Social media *GASP*. (Actually, if we’re going to be truthful, it was more like a giant wave of consternation slapping me right in the face. But I digress.) However, I think I was missing the point. Lent and Easter weren’t meant to make life miserable for a period of 40 days so I can remember how miserable Christ must have been. They were meant to remind us that because of Jesus’ incredible, painful, sacrifice, we don’t have to live devoid of hope and purpose and joy. He gave His life so that we don’t have to spend our lives in constant sacrifice, trying to earn acceptance from God or somebody else. Easter and Lent are celebrations of that freedom. So when I give up something as insignificant as collegiate comfort food (as difficult as that may be), I can be reminded of and rejoice in God’s great sacrifice for me. And that, my friends, is the point of Lent – experiencing the joy of His selfless love. This Easter, may you grow into a new and better person, and may you know just how much you are loved.
Ephesians 3:14-19: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Written by Carilee