This blog begins with a necessary personal confession regarding the subject of Lent. In short, I still don’t know that much about it. I was exposed to the tradition of “giving something up” during this season through my wife’s family and her Catholic childhood. Over the past few years, the girls and Christy have participated in some form or fashion of Lent, I’ve just never really bought in. To me it has always seemed a bit ritualistic and without purpose, aside from cutting out sugar or keeping television off for a few weeks. And don't even get me started on the whole idea that Lent is tied to Mardi Gras! Anyway, Lent begins this Wednesday and my first reaction has always been to ask, "so what?" - OK, that’s a pretty accurate qualifier regarding my lack of true understanding on the subject.
That said, I think I might finally have found the answer to "so what?" Possibly due to being more open to the potential for Lent to reap spiritual growth, and definitely due to the excellent message delivered by Pastor Beaty this morning, I am actually looking forward to a season of devotion and worship beginning this Wednesday. By considering this practice as a dedicated opportunity to know Him / others better and to love Him / others more, I am approaching this time with what Pastor David phrased, "intentional steps of faith.”
Basically, the idea of Lent is to deny self, or to sacrifice that which takes attention away from Christ’s cross and places it on yourself. That much of Lent I did know. But what I have seen, or at least what I have perceived, rightly or wrongly, is that it is often more about the good that it does for the person, (a diet, more exercise, stop smoking, no computer, etc.), and less about what the sacrifice is signifying. Don't misunderstand, I am guessing that any craving, comfort, vice or worldly idol can be / should be a valid choice, as long as the intent is in order. That is, when temptations arise for say, a Diet Pepsi, the immediate thought goes to, "Lord, you sacrificed all to provide for my eternal relationship with you, this is the least that I can do as we approach the remembrance of your death, burial and resurrection." As opposed to, "I said I would give up soda and I know it's a good thing to do, so I will not have that Diet Pepsi!”
Lastly, I really appreciated the sermon's encouragement that Lent is not solely about giving something up, but it can also be a time of beginning a new spiritual discipline. Maybe it's to read a particular series of scriptures, or set a dedicated time of prayer, or maybe it's to give particular resources to others, or even to fast as an exercise of sacrifice and meditation. For me, if you read a few days ago you saw my commentary on wisdom. I mention in the post that I would really like to memorize that chapter someday. (Blog post on Job 28) Well, guess what, no time like the present. But even in this I want to make sure that the purpose remains fixed on honoring the celebration of Easter and knowing Him better, and not simply on accomplishing a task.
So, these are just a few of the current thoughts bouncing around one guy's head. I do think this is a personal decision that only you can make regarding how, or even if, there is reason to participate in Lent. As my fellow runners would understand, I tend to communicate my commitments as a form of personal accountability; it's like they say with marathon training, the very best start is to let others know. I encourage you to pray for this time and help hold me to these "Steps of Faith."
"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.