Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lent as I Know It

Lent has always meant, to me, a 40-day period when you give up something you love:  chocolate, sodas, television.  When I was in third grade, I tried to give up vegetables for Lent, but this didn't fly so well with the parentals.  Until last week, Lent meant, to me, a time when I would give up something I really enjoyed, unlikely to abstain from said enjoyable item for the full 40 days.  All it took was a few Sunday morning worship services and a few Wednesday evening contemplative prayer sessions for my eyes to be opened.  And some Google-ing.

On Sundays and Wednesdays, my ears heard the reasons for Lent, the symbolism of the Wednesdays and Fridays and Sundays of the Lenten season.  My eyes scanned through numerous articles and web sites devoted to the de-mystification and explanation of "what exactly is Lent all about?"  With everything I read and heard and thought about, my heart longed to fully and truly participate in this Lenten season, and not just by way of giving up chocolate or caffeine or some other delicious requirement for sanity, but to follow the Lenten season as a journey through the darkness of suffering to the light of love and grace, to suffer with Him and for Him and relying only on Him to see me through this 40-day devotional.

This new understanding has called for some serious reflection.  How should I go about my Lenten journey?  What should I give up?  What should I add?  For how long and how much should I read scripture?  I am reminded of a recent Joyce Meyer podcast when she said, "God cares about practice not perfection."  This really simplifies things.  A lot of things.  God doesn't care what I give up or how many good deeds are added to my day planner.  I can't earn what I already have - love and grace and completeness.  I'm still learning to accept this fact, to believe that I am worthy of such an amazing love.  I want to get closer to this love, to His love.  This is where the "giving up something" during Lent comes into play.  What in my life keeps me from growing closer to God?  What keeps me from His love?  What keeps me in the darkness?  Whatever the answer, or answers, give it up.  Sacrifice instant gratification for eternal joy.

Jesus went around helping people.  He always put the needs of others before His own, even when He knew he was going to be killed.  What can I add to my life that will make me more like Jesus, a lover and helper of others?  What can I incorporate into my life that will bridge the distance between me and God? What can I do to move closer to Him and His love, and in turn, bring this love into the lives of those around me?

There are as many Lent practices as there are people who wish to practice Lent.  Fasting is the most common, and even this tradition brings with it many options of doing so.  From everything I have read, from the last few sermons I have heard, I believe that Lent is about strengthening one's own walk with Jesus and moving through suffering to rejoicing with Him and for Him.

I am genuinely excited about this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, when the Lenten season begins.  I am also realistic in that I know this excitement will dwindle down, that I will find myself very uncomfortable, maybe even miserable.  But this will be a good thing!  It is in these darkest hours, when I am uncomfortable and longing for my "old" ways of life, when I am unsure if I can sacrifice and suffer one more day, that I am one with Jesus and His sacrifices for me.

So what have I decided for my practice this Lenten season?  There are countless web sites that allow you to sign up and receive a daily scripture reading every day during Lent.  This I have done by way of http://www.biblegateway.com/newsletters/.  The rest is still under construction and left to prayer and reflection in the days to come.  Humility is key during the Lenten season.  I will blog about my Lenten journey, but the specifics as to what I do or don't do won't be included, nor will they matter.  What matters is what God reveals to me, my experiences with Jesus during this time, how I receive His love and grace both in the light and in the dark.  These are the things of Lent I want to share with you.

I would like to say that I am a new Christian; my walk with God is fresh.  Everything I write is from my heart, and my experiences and the words I use are new to me and are what I understand at this moment.  I encourage you to talk to the pastor or associate pastor of a local church if you have questions about God.  I love reading about God and listening to podcasts and blogging, but the times I have sat down and talked with an active believer have made the most positive impacts on my faith and understanding of God and Christianity.  And of course, keep reading! - it's an honor to have you visit and experience life with me.

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