Every year, for the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday, countless people choose to abstain from using certain things, or eating certain foods. While some may not know the true reasons behind this period of time, it is a symbolic time of dedication for many Christians.

Lent gives Christians the opportunity to fast just as Jesus did. Jesus’ fast can be found in Matthew 4:1-11, where he is tested in the wilderness to resist many temptations.

Lent originally began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves of the value of repentance, but it now extends to various denominations within Christianity to refocus self-discipline, to strengthen their relationship with Christ, and to follow in the steps of Jesus during his journey in the wilderness.

The season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, when Lent participants consciously mark a cross, made from ashes, on their foreheads. This signifies the idea that we were created from dust, and to dust we shall return. This symbol is a mark signifying that one is in community with those who are also fasting during Lent all over the world. Wearing the mark of the cross in a place as highly visible as one’s forehead is a proud statement. During Lent, participants can fast from food and water, but unlike other fasting seasons in different religious, it is not required.

One unique part of Lent is that it allows believers to decide what it is they should avoid and forces them to think of what is hindering their spiritual growth or self-discipline. For example, if someone spends most of their time watching Netflix, they might consider giving up Netflix to help keep them focused on either their studies or to spend more time building their relationship with the Lord.

During Lent, many people also pledge to add something specific to their daily routine, such as a designated prayer time, or writing one encouraging text message a day. Sunday however, is a day of Sabbath, the day of rest, so fasting is not permitted on this day.

Lent is a time to humbly reflect on what it means to follow Christ and encourages the idea of making space for God by adding more time with him or sacrificing something that is blocking your relationship. The practice of Lent really makes the understanding of Easter far more personal as a day of celebration, rather than a day of simple family gathering.

Although the Lent season has already passed, allowing space for God and building a stronger relationship in Christ is not something that has to be limited to 40 days, but something that can be followed all year.