My non-Christian friends will probably be surprised to hear that I'm not participating in Lent. Well, I suppose a few of them may have never heard of Lent . . . but most of them, I suspect, assume that's one of those things required in the faith. ALL Christians do Lent -- just like they go to church on Sunday mornings, pray before they eat, and vote Republican. The nuances between the different denominations are not clear to them.
Growing up Southern Baptist, I don't believe I ever heard the word "Lent" at church -- nor "Mardi Gras" or "Ash Wednesday". My church didn't even do Advent at Christmastime. Because it was never discussed, I never heard of a reason why we didn't celebrate such things. But given what I know of the Baptist Faith and Doctrine (and how it played out on a practical level), I think they would have said that it's all a bit too ritualistic. A gimmicky thing. That it's a "good work" people do thinking they're earning their way into God's good graces by doing so, even though most of them don't take it seriously.
In any case, I know where my Baptist nurturers were coming from. The only time I ever heard of Lent was the occasional kid at school who was "giving up something"--soft drinks, or headbands, or The Cosby Show. It struck me as gimmicky at the time, too. Certainly nothing of any spiritual nature or value.
And there's nothing in the Bible about Lent. Frankly, there's nothing in the Bible about Easter, either. Or Christmas. We're not instructed to set aside a day of the year to celebrate Christ's resurrection. (Actually, we're instructed to do the bread and wine thing whenever we get together to remember his death on our behalf. The Lutherans and their kind got it all over the Baptists on that one. Touché.)
But that doesn't mean the idea of Lent is unbiblical. As I just said, we are told to remember Christ's sacrifice all the time. And fasting is mentioned frequently. We're never specifically instructed to fast, but frankly, it's spoken of as if it is just assumed we will choose to fast on occasion for spiritual reasons.
My title is a bit misleading. I have "done Lent" before. I've had years I gave up something for Lent -- sometimes for a legitimate spiritual purpose and sometimes just because calling it a Lenten thing gave me a guilt trip if I backed off on something I knew I needed to do anyway. One year, I ended up writing a series of blog posts about why I believed in the resurrection that turned into a very valuable Lenten exercise (you can read the first one here; the rest you can easily find in the blog archives on the right side of that page).
This year, however, Lent isn't happening for me. Between a writing project I'm working on and the school play I'm helping with and my eldest's senior year stresses and subbing at my youngest's school and everyday hectic life and this incessant cough that won't let go of my lungs (yes, I'm seeing a doctor on Wednesday), Ash Wednesday slipped up on me unawares. I haven't had any chance to think seriously about what I could do for the forty days of Lent that would serve to draw me closer to God in a meaningful way . . . and if it's not doing that, it's not worth doing. Maybe I'll observe Lent in June, after graduation.
No judgment, please, Christian friends. My sins have already been atoned for, thanks be to God. Hallelujah, Thine the glory. Jesus saves, Jesus saves.