Lent, for those of you on this 40 day journey, know that it is near the end. Just a week away. A week until you can have chocolate or bread or Diet Coke or whatever you’ve given up this season. For many years I gave up things, safe things, but still things. My first attempt at Lent I gave up Diet Coke. I didn’t realize my attraction (let’s be serious, my addiction) was so strong that I drank Diet Pepsi or even (gasp) Diet Shasta in its place. I thought that was okay because I was giving up the best for terrible substitutes. The next year I took it a step further and gave up all “bubbly” drinks, it was hard but I obviously survived. The following year I gave up sweets. Sweets, people, meaning chocolate, jelly beans, cake, pies, cookies; all glorious gifts from God that take center stage during the Easter season. I wondered during those forty days why if God gave us such goodness would I ever deny myself of it. My friends, family and coworkers wanted to rush Lent along because Shea without chocolate is never a good thing. Every time I was tempted to sneak a sweet I would say, “Jesus, you’re worth so much more than this” or “I know I’m nowhere close to being you Jesus, but if you can avoid the temptation of real food I can step away from the good sweet stuff.” I even passed up my sister’s birthday cake, which is the best cake in the world. She has baking skills!
What I realized in all this giving up was that I wasn’t doing much to take in. The terrible substitutes for Diet Coke and the fruits I used as sweets never quite made the difference. The thing is I wasn’t honoring God in my Lenten practice. I was making a mockery of the entire experience. It was all about me and my sacrifice of sweets. For when we give something up to honor the gift of Christ’s temptation and sacrifice we should replace it with something of greater value. That greater value could be in the form of structured Bible reading, dedicated quiet time (chair time for Dish folks), a radical change of heart that makes you more Christ-like or even a greater understanding of the sacrifices made for us. I got a little close to that last one, but I feel I could have done better.
The season of Lent (not to be confused with the season of lint that attacks me weekly in my basement laundry area) is only 40 days. ONLY. When you’re in it, sacrificially giving up something, it feels like an eternity, longer than the 400,000,000 fabulous days of pregnancy. What if we took the effects of the sacrifices of Lent and made them forever. Read that carefully, I’m not saying give up Diet Coke or sweets forever (I would be disowned) I’m saying let the effects of giving up something and taking in more become who you are. Take in Christ, take in the awareness of the magnitude of His ultimate sacrifice, take in being more like Him.
Don’t focus on what you’ve given up, focus on what He’s given you.