Lent: It’s not for the sentimental.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, which is the season we all abstain from sugar, right? Right?

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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:

  • Alcohol?
  • Social Media?
  • Soda?
  • Coffee?
  • Meat?
  • Reality TV?

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I wonder what would it look like if we all gave up gossip?

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 warmer, more cheerful, and really listened for forty days?

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.

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The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from our dead-end devices. We turn away from the false, and we turn to the True. We turn our face, attention, interest, energy, and all our will towards the face of God.

Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our heart, sears our conscience, and darkens our mind. Our eyes and words turn haughty. We compare and despair and bemoan. We are easily offended, greedy for affirmation and self-justification. We seek our will be to done, grumbling and blaming when it isn’t. Sin hides God’s true image from the world that he loves. We desperately 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 Cabernet or chips, but to give up sin!

IMG_7270God created us as physical beings. Our bodies matter. Art matters. Sleep matters. Bread and water matters, and so does wine. Our relationships are also physical. Smiles, shrugs, sex, eye-contact, a cold shoulder, a certain tone of voice, and all the intricacies of body-language speak to us and 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.

IMG_6943The season of 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 for a short while, so that I can more expectantly follow Christ, and (re)turn to the real way, the real truth, and the real life.

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Here are a few questions (thanks to Craig R. Higgins, from his article “On Keeping a Holy Lent”) to ask yourself 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 a sentimental way.

It was decisive, and there was a cost. 

IMG_7204Our Father’s will is being done, and his words are going out. His words and ways 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.

Kim

19 responses to Lent: It’s not for the sentimental.

  1. bethanywade says:

    LOVE!! Thanks for sharing! I think it is important to remember that it is not about what is being given up, it is ALWAYS about what is being gained!!🙂

  2. Ben Nelson says:

    This is good Kim. And I love that you end with don’t be afraid. It’s funny how we get fearful when we are getting ready to do with out something even if it is hurting us.

  3. Thank you for the excellent post. I think God communicates the perfect abstinence each person should undertake. I like to choose things that change me forever. One year I gave up self-critical thoughts. I became a person who had a clearer view of the person God made me.

  4. Rebeca Jones says:

    This is excellent and thought-provoking. I’ve grown up in the church and yet have never considered Lent. It has never been taught as more than a historical note…a practice for Catholics. This gives me much to ponder. Thank you!

  5. Given Breath says:

    Rebecca, I think you will find a rich and deep treasure as you ponder/consider Lent. I know I did. Thanks for your comment – I always appreciate hearing from you.

  6. Jennifer says:

    “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.” Truth!
    I like this post so very much. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I love your ‘writing voice’ – it speaks to my heart.
    Is ‘Lent’ an American tradition? It feels like I’ve never heard about it before?
    Perhaps it is a ‘wise tradition’ and I love that it ‘insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue’…
    If only we could be reminded all year around🙂
    May God bless you, dear Kim.

  8. Ola says:

    I never thought that “Lent” applied to non-Catholics…your writings today helped clarify the importance of being quiet before God, and purposely choosing to eliminate the things that can clutter our lives, and put God last on the list of things to do. Thank you for reminding us, that God’s love was so great, that he sent his son to die for our sins.

  9. Given Breath says:

    Hi Dorette,

    Lent is one of the oldest observations in the church calendar, the time leading up to the greatest of Christian feasts – Easter! It has always been a time for soul-searching, and repentance, confession, and increased sacrificial giving. It’s goal is to strengthen us as disciples of Christ.

    Lent is a journey of sorts. By the end of it, we should expect to find ourselves in a rather different place than when we started!

    Peace to you, and thanks for your comment.

  10. debirussell says:

    Great thoughts! I have been considering how I might participate in Lent this year, and this was very helpful!

  11. Grace Snodgrass says:

    Wonderful post. Recently I gave to God something that I had been struggling with. I am so willful. When I gave it over to Him, He showed me so much peace and love. I have done a complete turn around in how I approach this problem, this person. It is only in God’s love that we can move forward to His light. Thank you for this post. Thank you for reminding us what we need to keep in our hearts and thoughts!

  12. Kristi I. says:

    So glad to see this post linked by a friend on facebook. I LOVE Lent. It is a freeing discipline and for me always makes Easter so much more of a momentous, joyous occasion!

    I once gave up recreational shopping for Lent. That May I quit practicing law, because I no longer needed its significant income — the only reason I hadn’t quit already. Most of my Lenten disciplines haven’t been so obviously life-changing, but this one was huge!

  13. Dawn Stutelberg says:

    I posted a great response to this on FB and it is this, rather than giving up a food item or drink, I am going to try to give up resentment, anger, gossip, judgement, ridicule, and to love others more. My heart needs this much more these days. I don’t feel having a glass of wine is a “lesser sin”. It is a gray area that no person can judge. My dad used to give up alcohol for Lent every year and he was an angry alcoholic. Maybe that is why this rubs me the wrong way. It almost seemed hypocritical because our family was so miserable from his drinking. I think the Lord would have wanted him to be a better father and friend if he could have to us. Whatever each person does is such an individual and personal choice. We are all on a journey together.

  14. Given Breath says:

    Hi there Dawn,

    Actually, I think you and I are on pretty much the same page. I don’t think of alcohol as a “lesser sin” either (I was being facetious). You are correct that Lent is a time to honestly examine our hearts before an always-loving Heavenly Father. The season invites us to put off those things that we cling to too tightly, so that we have room to put on gentleness, patience, kindness, and the other fruits of a person fully alive in Christ.

    Anger, resentment, and bitterness are exactly the right things to remove, so that there is space for the light to shine in, and for new life to take root and grow.

    Thank you for writing.

  15. Janell Register says:

    Thank you for posting this…. I’m in need of a reminder to dig deep into my soul and look around me. If I give something up to you Jesus I want it to bennifit you in all it glory. I have been stressed and overwhelmed at times and my beautiful children may be paying the price. For lent, I give up yelling at my children. God gave these beautiful children to ME…. Now my job is to shine the light and goodness you Jesus Christ has instilled in me. To be patient, be quite and to listen.
    Thank you Kim, for helping me see the deeper side of my heart.

  16. gindivin says:

    This was one of the best and most insightful posts on Lent I have read. I am so grateful we have been given a season to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us to run the race set before us.

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