For a few years now I have been practicing Lent. I am not from a background where this practice would have been common to me, so when I first discovered it, it was not only challengingly difficult but also a very rewarding discipline. For years, I was able to discipline myself to pray and abstain from certain things like meat and soft drinks. In fact, after the first couple of years, I even increased the things I was “giving up” so as to make it more difficult. I gave up meats, soft drinks, candy, caffeine and even tried limiting technology usage. Some of the years were more challenging than others because of the nature of where I was. If I was in Africa, things may have been easier in some ways but coming back to the US proved to be tougher.
There are many reasons why practicing Lent has been beneficial for me. I’ve been able to exercise my faith in a different way. I’ve also been able to in a minuscule way start to understand what sacrifice is about, which has helped me appreciate more what Christ has done for me. It has also been part of helping me to not let anything other than the Holy Spirit control me.
We are all controlled by our appetites and desires to some degree. When we get hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we drink. When we are sleepy, we sleep. Naturally, we fill these needs and wants with the things that will satisfy. However, there are times when I can become so busy with work, so consumed by what I am doing that I will ignore my hunger and keep working. I can ignore my desire for sleep because of a deadline or desire to do something else. I can forgo certain things which my body may crave and even need for want of something else. And that something else is not always what is best.
With this year’s Lent, I am seeking this to be my intention: forgo something I would really want and desire for something greater, not lesser. It really is amazing to consider how much sleep I willingly give up in the name of “work”. Moreover, when I look at the missed meals because of just being too busy to eat, fasting from certain food items and even missing some meals to pray should not be an issue at all.
What I have to fight against though is staying committed to the “fast” instead of the relationship. This is not an activity to see if I can be “spiritual” but to simply deepen my relationship with Christ. The sacrifices are not being made to prove I can do it…because I have proven I can do it, numerous times. It’s really got to become more and more about me developing my relationship with Christ and finding the want to be with him more appealing than anything else I could want.
We’ve all had those moments when there were certain people that we would have loved to have seen or be with. Loved ones who live far away or people that we cherish time with demand every ounce of time we can give them when we are together. And when the time comes to depart and separate, the ache is certain and all too painful. Hunger pain and pangs don’t hold a match to those kind of pains. This is where I hope Lent brings me to this year; that I would cherish moments with Christ so much that the thought of departing would viscerally move me. That just as when I have to say goodbye to some of my kids, my heart aches and stomach turns, it wold be the same way with my time with Christ.
Yes, Lent is about sacrifice but no sacrifice is too great to spend with someone we love…if even for one more moment. Oh that it would be so, Christ!