We are about to enter the season of Lent, which is the period of time all of us are gearing up to abstain from sugar, right? Right?
For those of you who might be less spiritually mature, and still plan to enjoy your 70% dark chocolate with sea salt, I hope you are at the very least making plans to give up some of the slightly lesser sins such as:
- Social Media?
- House of Cards?
I wonder what would it look like if we all gave up gossip? Or imagine if we decided to give up complaining, or comparing ourselves to others, or interrupting? What would it look like if we still ate a square of chocolate every afternoon (sipped a coffee, tweeted a tweet, grilled a burger) and yet were warm, cheerful, and sensititive to everyone for a month?
Friends, Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue: we are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way.
The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from my own dead-end devices, and to the life-giving way of a good God. Lent is for us.
Lent expects us to (re)turn our faces towards the sun. Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our hearts over time, and sears our conscience. We become complacent, and easily offended. Our eyes turn haughty. We seek our will be to done, and grumble when it isn’t.
We need a time of focused heart examination, because sin (whose property is always to destroy and separate) will steadily suck our spirits dry to the bone. The point of Lent, then, is not to give up chocolate or chips, but to give up sin!
God created us as physical beings. Our bodies matter. Art matters. Sleep matters. Bread matters, and so does wine. Our relationships are also physical: smiles, sex, eye-contact, a certain tone of voice, all our body-language communicates to others in tangible ways.
Over time, what is hidden inside our inner places will overflow into every crack and crevice of our physical lives and relationships: what’s inside will come out.
Understanding this, if my love of wine (or work, or applause) fills up my need for God, I mustn’t be surprised when my body, mind, spirit, and relationships slowly become depleted and dry.
Real life will leak out of all the holes I am trying to fill.
Enter the season of Lent.
Lent is the time for me to turn around from my own darkening path, and to walk again in the light. It’s not a sentimental turning – it is decisive, and with a cost.
I leave the good things found in wine, or blogging, or exercise, so that I can more expectantly follow Christ, and (re)turn to the real way, the real truth, and the real life.
Here are a few questions (thanks to Craig R. Higgins, from his article “On Keeping a Holy Lent”) to ask yourself if you are ready to focus on your heart this season.
- What are my characteristic, habitual sins?
- What has captured my attention to such a degree that my love for Jesus has grown cold?
- In what ways is my devotion to Christ and his church less than whole-hearted?
- Do I give thanks to God after every pleasant occurrence or time?
- Am I warm, cheerful, sensitive to everyone?
- Have I thought, or spoken unkindly of anyone?
- Have I over – or under – eaten, slept, worked, rested?
- Have I done things just for appearance? Have I compared myself to others?
- Have I been fervent in prayer and reading God’s Word? Is there warmth?
Don’t be afraid. God’s grace and tender care is infinitely greater than any sin you may unearth in your heart during the season of Lent. He has taken on your every sin, and not in in a sentimental way – it was decisive, and there was a cost.
Press this into your heart. Our Heavenly Father’s will is being done. Open your eyes this Lent and see it! His way will form us into a celebratory, hospitable, generous, and thankful people who will reflect him rightly to the watching world.
Peace to you in your journey this Lent.