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by Carol Brown

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 3/20/14

As a Baptist minister’s daughter, I didn’t grow up observing Lent. Our church celebrated Easter with gusto, but we didn’t pay much attention to the 40 days before Easter. We didn’t use the Season of Lent as a time to enrich our worship and deepen our faith in God.
 
When I was in the second grade, our family moved from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Spartanburg, South Carolina. As I walked into the second grade classroom at Pine Street Elementary School, I felt like I was entering a foreign land. As the teacher introduced me to the class and I looked at all of those unfamiliar faces, I really needed a friend. A little girl with a pixie haircut and deep dimples, named Susan Jenkins, became my first friend in Spartanburg. Susan helped me navigate the strange and confusing world of second grade in South Carolina. Through our elementary school years, Susan and I had many great adventures together. And through Susan’s family, I was introduced to the traditions of the Catholic faith. Occasionally, after spending the night with Susan on a Saturday night, I would attend Mass with her family on Sunday morning. All of the kneeling and praying aloud was pretty confusing for a little Baptist girl, but the exposure to a different kind of worship helped to broaden my viewpoint. And it introduced me to Lent.
 
Still, my view of Lent was as an outsider observing the peculiar practices that Catholics had to follow. It didn’t occur to me until many years later that Lent could hold value for my own spiritual life. Now I find that observing the Season of Lent—setting aside the 40 days before Easter to focus on the depth of Christ’s sacrifice—allows me to grow in my relationship with God and to fully celebrate the beauty of Easter.
 
I know that my participation in Lent is not a requirement. Our church does not tell us that we must follow certain rules in order to deserve Christ’s salvation. But, I am glad that I am part of a fellowship that understands the value of Lent. Our church provides opportunities for me to experience the journey of Lent through thoughtful worship and also encourages me to find the spiritual practices that help me grow in God’s grace during this season.
 
As we continue to journey toward the cross and Easter morning, I pray that God will draw you close and deepen your faith through the Lenten season.