Lent is a traditional season of the Church year... the 40 days leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. It feels sometimes like many of us get so caught up in our daily lives that we side-step or simply forget about these transformational opportunities on the Church calendar. It's a very special season of reflection, repentance, and restoration as we approach Easter Sunday.
What will the season of Lent 2014 mean to you? Is it just another period of daily life to check off your to-do list? Or could this truly become a time, a daily journey, in which you choose a closer walk with Jesus? You can probably guess which choice I'm praying you make.
For many, Lent has always meant a season of "giving something up" to identify more closely with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But to be honest, I've always struggled to catch on to this tradition. I'm not knocking it if it's something that is helpful to you. But I've always had a hard time understanding how giving up chocolate or soda pop relates to what Jesus did for me. How could giving up some of the luxuries of my life truly relate to the depth of suffering Jesus took on my behalf?
If "giving something up" for Lent is a part of your tradition and it's meaningful to you, please don't stop. That's not what I'm saying. But for those who may relate to my struggle, maybe there's another sacrifice we could make that could connect our hearts to the suffering of Christ during this season of the year. Maybe instead of "giving up" something, we could consider "giving forward" something. Maybe our sacrifice could become thinking of others as more important than ourselves. Maybe during our 40 day journey of Lent we could create a proactive daily goal of saying only kind things to those around us. Maybe we would choose to be encouraging to those around us. Maybe there are relationships that need forgiveness. Maybe someone in your life has a financial or material need that you could meet. We could get still for 5 minutes in the morning and pray, "Lord, how would you like to use me in someone's life today?" And let God show you. Keep an eye and ear open for an opportunity God places in front of you.
To me, things like time, patience, money, forgiveness, understanding, grace, etc., are all things that require some sacrifice from me. And they are all things that contribute to building up the kingdom of God. It's this sacrifice for the genuine benefit of others and this kingdom-building motivation that helps me identify more closely with Christ -- not just during this season, but all year long. Giving forward shows God I know what matters most in my life: people. Giving strengthens my faith. And it makes me more like Jesus.
Blessings to all as we journey together through the season of Lent.