Ash Wednesday…..Lent….what does all this mean? I have no idea, I was raised Baptist
So you may be asking why I’m writing a blog on the above religious practices. Well like most of us we learn best through our experiences and other peoples experiences. First there is me – I am not a big fan of rules, never have been and probably will never be. Free spirit at best and like to do things my way and not follow pattern of any one or anyones rule. I realize this is not good….. Secondly there is my husband (Patrick) – he loves a good structured plan. He gets giddy about a “start day” and is completely focused till the challenge is over. You put the two of us together and you get 3 messed up kids! That brings me to my sweet Cooper.
Cooper is our middle, 8 years old, sweetest, most compassionate rule follower I have ever met. The other night we were eating our Valentine’s meal and I served some appetizers while we waiting for our steaks to finish grilling. The appetizers were mozzarella cheese sticks to be exact because obviously we were focusing on the health content of the meal……
A GOOD 5 minutes have passed almost all of us had scarfed down our cheese sticks…..except Cooper. In a quiet voice Cooper asked “mom can we say the blessing?” His cheese stick is still sitting on his plate and he is still sitting patiently in his chair waiting to bless his food so he can eat. Bless.
1. Is what he did wrong? No…and yes. Let me explain. Coop like a lot of us forgot who his blessing is to and who it is for. He was waiting on everyone to participate instead of taking time on his own and praying his blessing to his Lord and Savior.
That leads me to Lent. Is is wrong? No….and yes. Let me explain again :-). If we wait on everyone else to “give up” something before we “give up” something, we may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Lent isn’t about sweets, coke, cake, coffee, Facebook the list goes on and on. It is about Jesus. It is about our relationship with Him growing by – loving, giving and reflecting on Him the next 40 days.
That is also a bone I would like to pick. If it is really something you need to give up why not give it up for more than 40 days?
Religious practices is a fine line. Should we be disciplined and practice spiritual disciplines? OF COURSE! But who are those disciplines for? How can giving up Coke grow your walk with Christ? Maybe it can, thats not for me to answer. What happens when you go 5 days and you have a Coke….whoops. Do you have a since of guilt when you crave the Coke? Do you feel that God is going to love you less because you didn’t make it to the finish line of 40 days?
Readers everywhere are saying of course the non-rule follower would say that!
That last question I asked is key. The gospel is not a bunch of boxes to check off…..please get that. The gospel is what happened because we proved we could never check the boxes off. We can’t. Impossible. Only through Christ are we made right before God, not our acts, nor our services. We are filthy rags, a world full of rebellious rule breakers and self righteous rule followers. So instead of thinking of a lent as a 40 day “challenge”, might I suggest a few alternatives.
1. Prayer journal. Keep a journal every year and write down your conversations with God. This is neat because you can go back and read it to see how your prayer life has changed over the years. This is great for kids too!
2. If you are aching to “give up something”, might I suggest 7 by Jen Hatmaker, yep I just went there. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/7-jen-hatmaker/1110788490?ean=9781433672965
3. The reverse lent challenge http://www.karenehman.com/2015/02/the-reverse-lent-challenge-dont-give-something-up-take-something-on/
4. Go to bed an hour earlier. Wake up an hour earlier and DIVE into God’s word. Might I suggest Kay Arthur’s precept? Yep went there too. www.precept.org
I am not anti-lent, please do not take that as the take home message. Lets just challenge/discipline ourselves in ways that God can use us more for His glory…..however that may be.