My family didn’t grow up observing Lent, in fact, I never had even heard of it until somewhere around age 8 or 9, my cousins (who were Methodist) told me about this thing called Lent. They told me that for 40 days before Easter, they didn’t eat chocolate and then, on Easter morning, they got to eat all the chocolate they wanted to make up for all the days they didn’t eat any. For some strange reason, I wanted to be a part of it. I don’t know if it is because I knew it had something to do with church and this might make me more “christian,” or if all I really cared about was chocolate. But whatever the reason, I have been giving up something for Lent since late elementary/middle school years.
As I have gotten older and really started to learn about what Lent truly is, I have really started to value this observance that most protestants/reformed denominations do not. Therefore, I am usually one of my only friends that sacrifices something in the name of Lent. However, I do love that Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. As a period of preparation, Lent has historically included the instruction of persons for baptism and profession of faith on Easter Sunday; the calling back of those who have become estranged from the church; and efforts by all Christians to deepen their piety, devotion, and readiness to mark the death and resurrection of their Savior. As such, the primary focus of the season is to explore and deepen a “baptismal spirituality” that centers on our union with Christ rather than to function only as an extended meditation on Christ’s suffering and death. For me, this is something special, a time I desperately need to awake my religious affections for Christ. People may choose a variety of ways to observe Lent in their personal lives. Some choose to “give up” something for Lent; this may free them from a bad habit or a distraction or may simplify their lives, and it allows for more time to spend in studying God’s Word or in prayer. Others fast, to cleanse their bodies and to identify with the poor. Some choose to commit themselves to acts of mercy, to giving of their money and their time to service in the Kingdom. Some use these 40 days to focus on a particular portion of scripture or daily prayer or a devotional book that helps them to journey with Christ to the cross. In all of these ways, people use this season for deeper reflection and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death on Easter. I love what Henri Nouwen says about Lent, “How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent?”
Throughout my life, I usually think about what I am going to give up for Lent months before Ash Wednesday rolls around on the calendar. I deeply ponder what it is in my life that I need to learn to do without. I have given up candy, chocolate, sodas, alcohol, lying, deserts, tv, facebook, a certain friendship, etc… Every year I am convicted about something in my life that I am placing too much dependence on. This year, my choice was a quick and easy one, sweets and tweets.
Sweets and Tweets. Great tag line, eh? I was pretty proud of myself for thinking that one up. I came across these 2 sacrifices for a variety of reasons. First of all, sweets. True, I am trying to watch what I eat, lose weight and be a more healthy individual, but I did not give up sweets only because of this. I was coming to realize that I had an unhealthy obsession with deserts/unhealthy food/cookies/cakes and the like. I would be full after a meal, but still crave something sweet. While this can sometimes be an ok thing, it was turning into a dependence that I knew I had to break free from to be a healthy person. So, maybe giving up sweets was more so based on what it was doing to my body, but this sacrifice is calling me back to the Lord. I am learning to seek elsewhere for what fills me, and I have found myself having a sweeter time with the Lord. My morning time with the Lord is still the same, bowl of fruit, hot cup of coffee in the chair by the window reading my Bible, but I have found myself working through scripture more, and remembering the sacrifice Christ gave for me, a sacrifice I all too easily gloss over far too many times. The fact that Christ gave himself for me, my enormously depraved, sinful self, blows my mind every time I deeply think about it. It is almost too much to imagine. Me? He loves Me? I love the time of Lent, solely because I love how it pushes me to dwell on this fact more often than usual.
And tweets. Maybe this wasn’t so much as a spiritual decision as a personal necessity, but I gave up twitter for Lent for several reasons. First, I was finding out that I was not being wise in my discretion on what I should tweet. Something had to change. I was depending too much on this electronic form of communication to tell the world things that oftentimes did not need to be told to the world. Which leads me to my next point. I was learning all I needed to know about my friends, via twitter. And they knew everything that was going on in my life, via twitter. There was no need for phone calls or coffee dates. No need to catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives, no real need to talk. When you can tweet, why talk? FYI, coffee dates are my favorite things in the world. I love sitting at a coffee shop catching up with a friend, but I seriously do not remember the last time this happened in my life. So, I knew information, or they knew information about me, but I was still deeply craving personal interaction. I wanted someone to care about me enough to ask me what was going on in my life, how I was doing, if life is hard; not just read my tweets. But, with the amount i was tweeting, there was no need for anyone to ask me this and I basically knew the whereabouts of my friends. There is a deep problem with this.
While electronic communication can be a wonderful thing and I love the world wide web, it destroys face to face conversations. I gave up twitter, even deleted the app from my phone, in order to pursue friendships on the personal level better. I want to hang out with friends more, catch up with friends on the phone more, ask them personally how their life is going….and I want them to do the same for me. Christ does call us to live in community and if my community is being built around twitter, I have a problem. So, I stepped back from twitter to fix this problem. Right now, I don’t feel like I have done a great job in this department, even though I am not tweeting. Sadly, life stays the same, even in Lent, and relationships still can be strained. And of course, I still struggle with opening up to people and knowing how to pursue friends. So, in the 2 weeks of Lent so far, I am still working on this. But my goal, by April 24, is to see a remarkable difference in my relationships with people, difference for the better.
So Lent. No I am not Catholic and therefore it might seem dumb that I even acknowledge this time, but for me, it is a special time. A time of remembering what the Lord sacrificed for me, a time for me to practice a spiritual discipline that I rarely practice, a time that draws my heart closer to the Lord, and a time that I pray helps me strengthen personal friendships. And so, I pray:
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
When you want to write a post on exhaustion, but you are too exhausted to even think of how to start the post, does that mean you are past the point of exhaustion? My last few weeks have been wonderful, but they have literally left me at a point of exhaustion. This post has been sitting here in draft mode, ready to be finished, for the past week and a half and I am just now able to put thoughts to words and finish the thoughts. The past weeks have been full of wonderful meetings with my personal friends, mothers of teenagers, committee members who support North Dallas Young Life, middle schoolers and high schoolers. Being deeply involved in the lives of others is a wonderful thing. To know the joys and good times, the hurts and temptations is both wonderful and heartbreaking.
Mothers tell the background of what is going on: who is affected, the concrete details, where the events have happened and then ask deep questions, searching for answers as to why their precious young teenagers are having to deal with situations that they could not even imagine going through in adulthood.
Teenagers give me tearful emotions, crying out for answers as to why their world is so broken. Middle schoolers and high schoolers alike come asking the same question: Why is their world falling apart? Why are their friends “experimenting” with sexuality and what does that mean for them? What do I believe is truth ? Is there really truth? Why do I not have any friends – everyone in my class smokes pot and sleeps around? Why do I not fit in with anyone? Why is my family life chaos? Why does no one love me – what do I need to do to get someone to love me? Their questions are not always out loud – sometimes they are only seen through their actions or told through their stories over ice cream at Pinkberry. The deeper I gets into these relationships, the easier it is to pick up on the questions, and the easier it is to go home every day with a broken heart.
This is my work world – day in and day out – it never ends and always changes. It’s wonderful and heavy. And it is hard to come home. Once I come home, I face the reality of my own life, its struggles, questions and temptations. These struggles in my own life weigh me down tremendously but I can deal with it in my life. I have the people/support/God in my life to wade through those waters with. However, it angers me that my teenagers have to work through the same struggles.
My own life is not rid of similar struggles. Throughout my life, I have struggled and fought my way through life with the Lord. Today, I am still walking in the midst of all the struggles that have followed me through high school, college and post-college life. It is a daily fight. I do not know why the Lord has me walking through so many things, but for some reason, this is the walk He has for me. I have accepted this war as my life and am ok walking through it, only because I have hope that my Savior will save me and there will be a day in my future where I am free from all the struggles in this life. These things cause me to daily come to the Lord, crying out for help.
But most of the teenagers in the schools I work in do not know my Savior, therefore they do not have this hope. Many of my teenagers do not have a glimpse of a day where there is no more pain and struggles in life. Without Christ to see through the struggles in this world, they look for other saviors, that only end in even more pain. There is no way I can navigate them through these waters without talking about Jesus. He is the only one to heal this chaos. The craziness in this life will still remain; the tv shows will still show teenagers in same-sex relationships and free flowing alcohol, the music will still talk about a teenage dream, and hallways are still full of mean girls and teenagers with broken families. Therefore, my heart cries out for my Savior to save these teenagers, who are too young and innocent to know how to walk through these waters their middle schools and high school represent and who desperately need a Savior, to save them from this life, from themselves, and from their sin. Lord, please come soon and end this chaos….and please save our teenagers.
Give us the teenagers that we may lead them to Thee. Our hearts ache for the millions of young people who remain untouched by the Gospel and for the tragically large proportion of those who have dropped by the wayside and find themselves without spiritual guidance. Help us to give them a chance, oh Father, a chance to become aware of thy Son’s beauty and healing power in the might of the Holy Spirit. Oh, Lord Jesus, give us the teenagers, each one at least long enough for a meaningful confrontation with Thee. We are at best unprofitable servants, but thy grace is sufficient. Oh, thou Holy Spirit, give us the teenagers. For we love them and know them to be awfully lonely. Dear Lord, give us the teenagers.”
– Jim Rayburn, Founder of Young Life
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:18-22
O Lord…I need you. Please help me to put my hope in you. You will provide for me, you alone will save me.