It’s the million dollar question. What are you giving up for Lent? I feel like this is the “business end” of Lent. At our house Phil and Ty have given up Oreos (like father, like son) Madison gave up candy, well Sour Patch Kids to be more specific. (Let’s not over do it!) And I have settled upon chocolate (Gasp! Yes, I am that spiritual. Just kidding. Remember my confession in I will be a subway preacher, my desire to go big or go home.) Sadly, I already inadvertently failed at this only one day in. I had a chocolate chip granola bar as an afternoon snack yesterday. It wasn’t until hours after the fact that I even realized it. Oh boy!
If this was all the more there was to it we would have seriously missed the boat because a Chips Ahoy cookie can just as easily be dunked in milk and as my 11 year old pointed out already she can just eat Sweet-Tarts instead of Sour Patch Kids. (This is an admitted work in progress.). Chocolate is a little harder to substitute when a stress storm hits in all of its fury. But there are substitutes and besides as I have admitted, I already failed. I am throwing myself and my family under the bus on this one (sorry guys) to prove a point. It’s about more than what we give up. This goes deeper than the external appearance to the why.
I love what authors Kendal Haug and Will Walker say in their Lenten devotional.
You may be familiar with the outward aspects of Lent: ashes on foreheads, conversation about giving up sugar or caffeine or TV. But Lent, like spiritual life in general, is not merely external. There are internal realities that give depth and meaning to our actions, things like humility, sacrifice, repentance, and faith. In other words, there is more to Lent than deciding between coffee and TV.
You could, of course, just decide that you are not going to drink coffee for forty days and be done with it, but to do so would be to deprive yourself of far more than coffee. You would miss something that God wants to do in you this season.
Jesus fasted from food and water for forty days in the wilderness. It was not a religious ritual or merely a display of his restraint. Rather, it was a time of trial and temptation which he endured by entrusting himself to God and being nourished on the Word of God. The point of the wilderness, for Jesus, was to experience the real presence of God with him, and power of God at work in him.
Though they may look the same from the outside, participating in Lent and “playing” at Lent are entirely different realities. So give up coffee if you want to, but don’t pretend that the absence of a beverage will sufficiently help you draw near to God.
The Lenten practice of denying usual comforts is a means of deepening our sense of union with Jesus, and reorienting our life around the things of God. We give up that which distracts and entangles because we want to experience some real joy and freedom in Christ.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38 NIV)
After yesterday’s post I found myself humming this song and have decided that it is my prayer for the next 40 days…
Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
Lead Me To The Cross by Seventh Day Slumber…no frills…no lyrics to read…just the music. Let it wash over you today. May it become your prayer too.