Believer or not, Lent is a special time of year

Published 11:49 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

Ash Wednesday was held this week in churches across our area and it marks the end of Mardi Gras and the beginning of the season known as Lent.

Now, if you aren’t a practicing Christian – and even if you are, depending on your denomination, Lent may not mean a whole lot to you, and that’s okay. I grew up in Mardi Gras-centric Mobile, Alabama and I’m the son of a minister, and Lent was still a relatively foreign concept to me until well into adulthood. Reason being, I was raised Baptist and it’s just not a tradition we actively observed. Honestly, neither was Mardi Gras, but that was just way more fun, so of course we all knew about that. But, then to have the option to give up something and actually practice some discipline for more than a month, was I guess some-
thing we just chose to overlook.

Whatever the reason, what Lent really represents, as I understand it today, didn’t come into focus for me until years after my days in my dad’s congregation.

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Wednesday night, I had the privilege of sitting in on an Ash Wednesday service here in Vicksburg at Christ Episcopal church and I think the Rev. Sam Godfrey explained Lent in a wonderfully simple way. He said it is a time for us to draw closer to God.

I realize not everyone, even here in the Bible Belt, is of the Christian faith and, as I said, even some of us that are aren’t familiar with the practice of giving up a worldly pleasure for the season, the Blessing of the Ashes ritual or some of the other practices
involved with Lent. I’ll admit, as a pastor’s son who could probably preach an impromptu sermon tomorrow just by virtue of having heard so many of my dad’s, even I was unfamiliar with the service Wednesday night. But, I recognized its value in our society – both the religious and secular aspects.

The definition of the lenten season is “a period of fasting and regret for one’s sins that is observed on the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter by many churches.”

The Rev. Godfrey said it is a time for for reflecting on our human mortality and for reconciliation with God. One of the more well-known ways people do this is through fasting and giving up a possession, habit, or pleasure for the allotted time period. All of this is done in remembrance of and reverence for the time the Bible says Jesus spent in the desert fasting and being tempted by Satan.

So, I propose this: Religious or not; Christian or not, maybe this year we could all take a page from this book, if you see what I did there, and insert some discipline of our own into our lives. I’m not saying we all have to fast or give up texting for the next month. But, just a few weeks ago we were all talking about our resolutions for the new year: what good habits we would insert into our lives and what bad ones we would finally kick. Maybe Lent is a great time to readjust if we’ve already gotten off track. And who among us couldn’t also deal with some reconciliation with God, or the universe, or whatever it is you look to for guidance in this life?

After all, I’d be willing to bet not being religious, Christian, or the right denomination didn’t stop many of us from enjoying Mardi Gras.

Blake Bell is the general manager and executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at