‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” – Matthew 15:8-9
I love nachos, and mexican food in general. I especially like the kind with the fajita chicken and the gooey cheese (not the shredded.) I like the guacamole (but only if it is spicy.) I like to pour fresh salsa over it… YUM! So Lent begins tomorrow and I am supposed to give up something I love until Easter. I figure nachos are great because, most likely, I will have the opportunity to order them on several occasions during the next six weeks and I will abstain. I will choose something not quite as exciting, maybe enchiladas… I won’t be near as happy when we head to Leon’s for lunch next week, but that’s ok because it’s all for Jesus… That is what it’s all about right?
I hope that, by now, most of you are appalled by my attitude. This type of thought process, I have to believe, is an affront to our Savior. I give those that don’t quite understand Lent a break, because maybe it was not a part of your faith tradition before now. Probably most of us have no real clue about Lent and what it is. But let me assure you friends, this is NOT what it’s all about.
Lent is the most sacred time of the Christian year. It is a holy time, a season set apart for us who believe to reflect, confess, repent, and be renewed by the grace of Christ. It is a time for us to drawn near to our Savior and revive our relationships with Him. It is a time of deep spiritual growth for those that take it seriously.
I am saddened by many who, calling themselves believers, have turned this grace-filled opportunity into something trivial and superficial, almost a joke. Two thousand years ago, a man was willingly tortured to death so that I might have grace and forgiveness. I don’t think giving up nachos is an adequate way to honor Him.
However, I am also saddened by those that take Lent so seriously that they miss the point. I have some acquaintances that choose what they are “giving up” and follow it to the letter. But many times I have seen them making themselves miserable in the process. Quite often I have heard the phrase, “Oh I can’t wait for Lent to be over, then I can….” I don’t think that is the whole story either.
The whole point of Lent is to connect deeply with Christ – to feel His presence and hear His voice in an ongoing manner. The whole point is to remember His sacrifice for us and to strongly embrace the gift of grace that He has for us. The whole point is to surrender our hearts and minds to Him that we might be transformed into His image. That is what Lent is all about for me.
Maybe by depriving yourself of something, that is a great reminder for you and does draw you deeper into His sacrifice. Great. But don’t forget the joy of being in communion with the One who loves you unconditionally. Before making any decisions, we need to be asking the question, “Will this course of action help me to love Jesus more, or just make me miserable for 6 weeks.” I fear that many fall victim to legalism during this time and miss the great blessings available to us.
Why don’t we do this? Over the next couple of days let’s pray and consider, ask Jesus what would draw us closer to Him during this season and be obedient to that command. Whatever He gives us will be good. If we ask, He will surely be faithful to lead each of us down our own path to becoming a highly committed disciple.
Some ideas that are floating around in my head are: A TV fast replaced with Bible study, A discipline of quiet time and journaling everyday, a major re-organization of my house and giving anything I don’t actually need to the poor. I have a lot of ideas – but I will trust Him to show me the right one.
I don’t know yet what I will be doing this Lenten season, but wherever He leads me – I know He will be there waiting for me.
Forgive me when I fail to honor You the way I should. Forgive me when I fall short on the promises I make to You. I thank You for Your unending grace and mercy toward me. Help me to embrace this Lenten season as a period of hope and opportunity. Help me, Father, to draw closer to You each day and to experience Your presence in magnificent ways. And protect me from my enemy, who surely will seek my destruction and failure during this time.
In the name of the Lamb I pray,
The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions and are not reflective of the staff nor the leadership of Liberty Crossings United Methodist Church.