“Lent begins with this realization. That we are a people in exile. That we are wandering far from our true home. And thus the beginning of repentance isn’t merely the terror that one finds in wandering in a strange land; the beginning of repentance is homesickness. Lent teaches us to fess up to how often we settle down in the land of our exile as though it were our true home; attempting to still the yearning the Spirit has created by throwing at it physical or psychological pleasure, and how it never works.” (courtesy of Pastor Will Weedon (borrowed from Edie at Life in Grace))
I have never before practised Lent. Or celebrated Lent. Or experienced Lent. I’m not really sure how to put that actually. In the last number of years I have noticed a growing interest in me towards the idea of Lent, and decided sometime last year that 2011 would be the time I “tried” it. I feel like my spiritual walk has been somewhat of a battle these last 6 months. I’ve been living in self-imposed bondage over my short-comings. This is NOT what God intends for me and I’m weary from the strain. It has been getting better recently and truth has slowly begun to set me free, but for some reason my focus keeps drifting back to myself. I can hardly see God, I just keep focusing on me, my condition, my faithfulness or faithlessness. Living in defeat breeds defeat. I avoid God and attempt to distract myself. It’s time for a Lent season in my life.
“Many times in the Gospels, Jesus called on people to repent, to turn away from doing evil. So the first impulse of love is to try to do things that Jesus would want of you.
But then, we get stuck and gummed up. We fail, as we always do. One of the things we learn in Lent is how inescapable our sin is, how far we are from being complete, how fell is the nature of our divide from God. When we struggle like mad to give some tiny aspect of our lives over to God, we discover how maddeningly out of reach a whole life of godliness is. We can’t do anything to fix our relationship with God. We’re too far gone. No matter how passionately we might want not to be the cause of Jesus’ suffering, we end up driving another nail into Jesus, making Him carry an even bigger burden. (Now, picture us at our less passionate moments….). Even when I’m at my best, I’m still enough by myself to execute the God who loves me.
But then, that’s why He did what He did, something only He could do. All we can do is collapse at Jesus’ feet. And trust Him. We can’t get there from here, but He can. He will take us, and the Holy Spirit will lead us along that road. Through the Spirit, we can love God better. The Bible tells us much of what we need to know, and other believers (also led by the Spirit) can also help. Christ gives us His body and His blood (Holy Communion), His presence among us and with us and in us. Knowing that, we can stand ready for Holy Week.
Lent is the season for the experience of giving your life over — in each moment, bodily, deliberately, to Christ and to what the Spirit is showing you. God wants you to surrender yourself, and let the Spirit work in you. In Lent, we take responsibility for our acts and thoughts, and treat certain of those as the killers they are. Lent is self-discovery of the parts of ourselves we don’t want to discover, through prayer, fasting, and other disciplines. It is the opening up, the turning over to God, the repenting of our sins, the turning away from that which does not please God. Yet there is just a glimpse of Easter through the heavy clouds of Good Friday — that Christ has taken the burden, and you don’t have to carry it anymore. Don’t you want to follow that kind of a God?
In Lent, it’s traditional to give up (or ‘fast from’) something(s) that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in. In Lent you put a stop to the fevered pursuit of pleasure, especially pleasure from the entertainment field’s realm of fantasy, and instead let joy seek you in the real world. Then, when the moments of joy come, they’re recognized as a gift from a loving God. Just as life itself is.” -Robert Longman Jr
So as part of Lent I have chosen to give up recreational internet usage. I will continue to blog, but I won’t be on facebook or reading blogs or devouring online newspapers or kijiji-ing. I will still do our banking and use google maps, but I won’t google every question or passing fancy. I won’t drool over decor pics in google images for hours. That may mean I will seem less “in touch”, which I don’t enjoy, but I will try to remind myself that I will hopefully be more “in touch” with my Saviour, and that is the goal.
Back when I was sorting through my priorities in the early winter I discovered that my number one hinderance or distraction from fulfilling my priorities is my computer usage. (I don’t watch tv) It’s also the number 1 thing I turn to for escape when I am stressed (food being a close second to that.) So for me it seems the wisest and most impacting thing to give up for Lent.
I will also be giving up youtube for the kids for the Lent season (and still considering hiding the ipod from Justus).
Before I go any further I want to post these thoughts from Edie at Life in Grace on Lent, because I think it’s easy to get off track in my thinking…
“A few stray thoughts:
1. Lent is a time for penitence and reflection and the practicing of christian discipline. It does not make God ‘more pleased with me’ and is not a ‘good work’. God is pleased with Christ alone and good works are those things which I give in service to my neighbor.
2. If I purpose to ‘give something up’ for Lent and then two weeks later find that I fail and can’t keep my lenten discipline, God is not disappointed in me. God is pleased with Christ and thus pleased with me when I have faith in Christ. I am a sinner who fails and sins constantly. And my failing is not a surprise to God.
3. If I keep my lenten discipline to the ‘tee’, I must be careful not to try and convince myself that I’m ‘more spiritual’ or holy than before. I have been freely clothed with the righteousness of Christ and am only learning to ‘fit’ into clothes that were given me by God.
4. We must also be careful not to view our discipline as ‘suffering’ and remember that Christ suffered on the cross for our redemption and we do not get to choose our own suffering (by giving up, say diet pepsi for a month).
5. It is a good exercise to occasionally deprive our bodies….to not give in to every fleshly desire. We are so often slaves to our own bodies and teaching ourselves discipline in any area is often met with resistance.
We all practice degrees of discipline already. Lent is the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise for the body. The body gets stronger when we demand much from it….not when we always ‘give in’ to what it wants. The same is true in disciplining our children. Because we love them so much, we demand what is best for them—which is often not what they, in their immaturity— want for themselves.”
With all of this in mind…. I am looking forward to a season of reflection, of repentance, of study, of peace, of purification… I am going to add things to my life as well as cut things out. I will be studying the weeks and days leading up to Christ’s death on the cross. I will be specifically working on adding peace in our home through peace in my heart.
I don’t expect to walk away after these 40 days and have everything all better. But I do want to set aside some specific time to deal with these thoughts and struggles and attitudes I’ve been living under. To do some real business with God. To experience Good Friday… see my sin nailed to that cross. And then to celebrate Easter Sunday because HE IS VICTORIOUS!
“Lent is time to retreat with Our Father. To confess to Him that we have wandered so far from home and that we have become far too ‘comfortable’ in the pleasures of this life. To confess to Him how utterly dependent we have become on everything, but Him. And He will gladly ‘receive’ us back with open arms: not because we demonstrate to Him our growing discipline and holiness, but for the sake of Christ and Him alone.” –Edie
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (this wednesday) and ends on April 23rd (day before Easter Sunday).