A couple of years back, my pastor said something that really lingered in my mind. Years later, it is still the very first thing I think of when I’m deciding what I want to change for the season of Lent. He said, “The whole purpose of Lent is to draw you closer to God. If what you give up isn’t going go to do that, then why are you giving it up?” At least, it was something like that. I’m paraphrasing – my memory isn’t the best. But the gist of it stuck. Why give up something if it isn’t going to do anything to improve your relationship with the Lord?
Lent doesn’t necessarily have to be sacrificial. Maybe the sacrifice is in the time it takes to commit to something new. None-the-less, it is a commitment. You are guaranteeing to make a change in your life for at least 40 days, with the sole purpose of identifying with and drawing near to the Lord.
Maybe, like me, you struggle with this yearly. Maybe you’ve given up the same thing year after year, or tried multiple different things and haven’t always stuck around to see it finish. I’m young, yes. I don’t have this figured out, and I don’t know the key to making the most of this season. But I have learned a thing or two and I have found a few ways that help my spirit grow.
One. Give up something that makes you rely on the Lord. 2 years ago, I gave up caffeine. At that time, I had been drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day. And I quit cold-turkey. No regular soda, no sweet tea, no chocolate. I was so dependent on caffeine to wake up and function that to go without it would be a life-style change. Which it was. At first, it was awful. I went through the withdrawal and suffered the headaches. I had no choice but to ask the Lord for strength and energy every single day. I needed him. And because of that, the bond between us grew stronger as well.
Two. Give up something that fuels unkind or unhealthy thoughts and desires. I often hear of people giving up social media. I think that is a great idea… if the reasoning behind the decision is in the right place. Maybe you want to dedicate the time you spend on that with your family. Make sure you are also thanking the Lord for the blessing that they provide! Or maybe you are wanting to take away the judgement and comparison you feel amidst your friends. Then focus on taking delight in what you do have, and improving the life the Lord has given you.
Three. By adding on time to write in your prayer journal or spend time with the Lord daily, you are letting go of what you previously would have spent that time on. That, in itself, is sacrificial. What in this life isn’t as important as time spent with my Lord? That could easily be answered with everything. But in reality, what do we prioritize that we could potentially let go of, or could restrict the time we allow for? There will be days where this is one of the hardest commitments you could make for Lent. But I would also venture to say that it is probably also one of the most lasting commitments as well.
Four. Worship daily. Worship isn’t something that needs to happen solely on Sunday mornings. This is another sacrifice of time that would otherwise be spent elsewhere. Worship on your drive to work, or as you sit and fall asleep. Worship through painting or writing or drawing or cooking. Stand alone in your room, without the congregation to fuel you, and worship as music plays. Worship, by definition, is adoring reverence. Respect to the extent of praise. If our life incorporates more fluent praise, what blessings would we recognize? How much joy would we receive?
Five. Make the choice to love someone new every day. I wholeheartedly believe that love is a choice. Each day, I choose to love my husband and [hopefully, but not always] show that love in various ways. Similarly, in the workplace and community, loving the people that surround you is a choice. Often they make it easy, but there are times when it isn’t. When that student or that coworker just grind on your nerves. If, each day, you chose to love someone new and displayed that love, how would that effect your heart? This could be a display of kindness, support or patience, but it all takes root in love.
So, you see, Lent isn’t just the act of giving something up. It is so much more than that. It can be so much more to us. I challenge you, and myself, to make it a season of intentionality, where our greatest desire is simply to know the Lord more.