Until a few years ago, Lent was far removed from me and most people I knew really. Religious celebrations and rituals were not part of my faith upbringing. But the more I’ve learned, the more I appreciate taking time to celebrate and remember the One I claim as my Savior. For the past two years I’ve joined in the “giving up” of something for Lent. This year as Ash Wednesday approached I contemplated how to partake.
I hate fasting. I hate dieting. I hate not having my routine. I hate being uncomfortable. I hate headaches.
But I also know that He who suffers calls me to join in His suffering. How do I give up all else for Jesus unless I start giving up something? If He calls me to a place where I am without _____________, what will my attitude be? And I’ll be honest, my life is too comfortable.
Our American culture screams “you have choices,” “work hard, play harder,” “you deserve it.” In this land of overabundance and convenience, I begin to believe that if I work hard then I deserve to do what I want. American culture
seeps pours into our churches and everything conforms to our liking and pleasure. When I look at myself and think of giving up anything that is a part of my routine life, I may think it’s a good idea but will quickly decide against doing it. My faith is weak.
I have read several articles on the Lenten season–the purpose of giving up something and how this calls us to repentance. On the other hand there are those who saw the giving up as a way to compete or check a box but results in little growth or change. That makes a lot of sense to me, and I love the thought of working on an attitude or adding a spiritual discipline to your daily routine.
But if I’m honest, I don’t know how to sacrifice. Thinking about how the Israelites worshiped God, it’s easy to see that it cost them something. God clearly wants our hearts more than physical sacrifices (because what can we give Him?). The question is: are we willing to give up what is temporary for that which is eternal? Are we willing to stop moving into our selfishness and turn back to Him who saves?
I saw something online about Blood:Water Mission’s 40 Days of Water Challenge, and I knew that this what I needed to do. The goal is to give up all beverages for 40 days except for water and to donate the money you would spend on drinks toward the goal of providing clean water in Uganda. No Diet Coke, coffee, wine, Crystal Light, or hot chocolate. This girl has a caffeine addiction! I have coffee every morning and a diet soft drink at lunch. I will go out of my way to make sure I have caffeine. One of my first thoughts this morning: I’m going to be in Guatemala during this challenge…I don’t think I’m going to do it…I can’t go without caffeine in Guatemala. Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge for sure. On day one, I’m already realizing how human I am, how consumed I am with drinks, and how much mercy I need. I need more surrendering, more sacrifice.
I really appreciated this blog article by Rachel Held Evans: 40 Ideas for Lent (2012). From those ideas I decided on spiritual goals I want to dwell on during Lent, like memorizing Scripture and praying a psalm every day. Maybe you too can learn with me how to sacrifice. That this may be a time not just to give up but to draw nearer.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
~Psalm 51:10, 16-17