On March 5, 2014, we will enter the season of Lent.  Lent is usually known as the time before Easter when we are to give up something.  We often give up something that we don’t really need, or something we will be healthier without.  While this is not a bad way to mark the time of Lent, it is off the mark of the season.  Lent challenges us to acknowledge the brokenness of our relationship with God.  In repentance and contrition we are to focus upon ways of accepting the restoration of congruence in our relationship that God offers through the life of Jesus.

In our American society we are convinced that we are more than capable of overcoming challenges with our own individual effort or pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  That is the way we settled this continent, isn’t it?  The first colonial arrivals to North America were saved from the harsh conditions of the New World by the native population that already lived here.  Families gradually moved west in groups for protection and mutual support.  Even today, no one accomplishes success without having encountered teachers, mentors, and others who helped to create the person that child became.  Why is it so hard for us to acknowledge that we might need the assistance of our Creator to overcome the gap we have created between humanity and God?

So this Lent, if you give up something that uses your time, spend that time in reflection and starting practices that will deepen your relationship with God.  Use the time to study, to pray, to serve others.  If you give up something that requires you to spend resources, dedicate that same amount of resources to a cause that reflects the challenge that God gives us, by loving God and loving our brothers and sisters.

While you do these things, don’t make a big deal of it.  Do not do it to receive praise but rather because you should have been doing these things all along.  The biggest challenge of taking on this practice is to not limit it to Lent, but rather to make it a habit that goes on from this point forward.  Very rarely do we follow the doctor’s advice of losing weight and once the doctor has seen us reach the desired weight, we go out and put all the pounds back.  Nor should we take steps to be more devoted to the way of our God only for 40 days.  Jesus told his disciples that no greater love can someone have than to lay down their life for another.  No greater devotion and love can we show than to lay aside something that will make us more Christ-like.

Shalom,  Darrell