Growing up, Lent bled into March life only when we conveniently needed a motivation to lay off the dessert and better fit into our jeans post-holiday season.
I had always felt that Lent was the rejected sister of Christmas, always riding on the coattails of the more attractive, happier holiday season. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized people actually observed the season. I had associated Lent with self-improvement, like a shiny Christian beacon of 40 Days to a Better You! That being said, these new people I met were different. They were not posting daily self-deprecating statuses on how they missed their daily diet coke, or making slightly too loud statements at birthday parties about how they can’t eat cake, especially red velvet, because Jesus.
Why celebrate lent at all? Is March the month our holiday season sins catch up to us? I don’t think God feels that way. I don’t actually think God even cares if we observe lent. Crazy, right? I think my earlier misunderstanding of the season is common in plenty of people. But Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate and joy because we’re supposed to. Lent is for us to grow closer to God, be that through adding or taking away. It’s a season to say no to me and yes to him, because Jesus.
Forty Days of Focus
This season, I’m going to participate in Lent. It’s so easy for me to want to fix, self-treat, and better myself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m going to try not to use Lent to fix and instead make it forty days to focus. The following hard part is deciding the method to get closer to grace in this season.
Cutting out a type of food is a big no-no for me due to a history of eating disorders, so cutting out sweets would probably move me farther from God rather than closer. I would love to add more prayer time or more journal time, but I genuinely do not have even an hour to spare in-between everything demanded in this busy season. Giving up social media is a great idea, but I need it for some logistics and leadership groups. God made me a self-disciplined and passionate person, but it has its drawbacks… I tend to be extreme, so cutting anything out now means that I’ll probably just binge on it after Lent is up. Oops.
I began asking myself what I struggle with that may not be a giant in my life, but exists as an ignored aspect that erodes away small bits of grace within me. I began thinking about the daily habits I have that are not so “bad” that I ever am forced to deal with them. Immediately, I thought of simply words. I bubble out constant complaints, sometimes dumping more energy into complaining that fixing. So often, the first thing I say to Caleb is what went wrong that day. I talk about how busy I am endlessly, and I complain about people and situations in ways that make me cringe to think about. I care so much for words, but turn a blind eye when it comes to “just letting it out.” With so much going on, it’s easy to verbally dump problems rather than peace.
After quite a bit of pondering, I decided to not add in or give up anything in this Lenten season, but to spend forty days intentionally focusing on Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” For this year’s Lent, I’m going to spend more energy saying the positives and spreading joy rather than complaints. Jesus was the ultimate listener, and I think that spending more time spreading love (and actually working through problems rather than getting mad about them) will help to me get out of my head and closer to his heart.
What are you doing for these next forty days? I’d love to hear you plan! If you were here, I’d suggest we go eat some red velvet cake, guilt-free, and talk all about it.