Lent will soon be here, and I hate to admit it, but I've always dreaded Lent. Somewhere, at some point early in my life, I got it stuck in my head that Lent is a sad, boring, dreary time. So it just seems so gloomy and LONG...ugh.
But this is not what Lent should be, nor what it's meant to be, I've come to believe. So, I'm retraining my little brain and disciplining my spirit for a rich, blessed -- yes, even joyful! -- Lenten season.
Most folks run around asking each other "What are you giving up for Lent?" I'm tired of all the usual suspects -- sweets, TV, computer, ice cream, etc. It's always the same old thing.
I have nothing against a little self-denial. On the contrary, self-denial for the right reason is a very useful spiritual practice. I could use more of it, for sure!
But, can't I come up with something better to deny myself than sweets? (Okay, you're on to me....I can't give up my chocolate!!)
How about "giving up" my habit of laziness in doing my household chores?
How about giving up my habit of sarcastic remarks?
How about giving up my impatient reactions to other people?
How about giving more of myself, consciously, in sacrifice to my family?
What if, instead, I got up, decided to wash those dishes out of love for Jesus, and offered Him my gratitude for all the creature comforts I enjoy?
What if, instead, I held my tongue until I had something kind or life-affirming to say?
What if, instead, I asked Jesus to show me His heart for that person who's really irritating me, and I prayed silently for God to meet their needs today?
What if I chose someone else instead of myself a little more often?
What if I actively decide that I will give up ME for Lent?
After all, isn't that what we all desire? More of Christ, less of me. "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
I want to spend the season not just mindlessly giving up something I can live without anyway. I want to spend the time building stronger spiritual muscle...cementing new devotional habits that will stay with me long after Lent is over.
How sweet it would be to feel the renewal in my own spirit that was in sync with the arrival of spring outside...to experience a small, internal "resurrection" at the same time we celebrate Christ's rising.
If the "giving up" is purposely replaced with "doing" something higher, something holy, then it will be time very well spent, and the blessings that flow from it will be significant.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:22-25