Raised in the , the season of was an important part of the pre-Easter season. Imagine my surprise when some of my Christian friends asked me what I was talking about when I mentioned it.
A Brief Primer on
Early in its history, the church became an accepted part of society, causing believers to lose much of their vibrancy and separation from “the world.” No longer fearing arrest for their faith or persecution, church people became comfortable and complacent. Church leaders, seeking to remedy this situation, instituted the season of , a 40-day period within which Christian believers are encouraged to participate in self-examination and reflection. Jesus’ days in the wilderness, along with Moses’ years in the wilderness, inspired the 40-day period.
Modern Lenten Practices
And so comes the question, “What have you given up for ?” Believers from varying Christian traditions continue the practice of making a “sacrifice” for . For some it may be a favorite snack, like chocolate. Too hard for me! Others may give up television or video games. Still others might make more meaningful sacrifices. One man related, “I asked a friend what he gave up for . With great pride he told me, ‘I gave up smoking!’ ‘When did you start smoking?’ I asked him. He replied, ‘That’s just it. I’m giving up starting.’ ”
So, if we were to follow the Early Church example of spending 40 days in self-examination and reflection, what would we give up? I once knew a guy who gave up beer during . By the time arrived he had lost weight, felt great, and hadn’t started a drunken argument with his wife for weeks. Unfortunately, on afternoon, after returning from church, he made up for the past 40 days. Within two weeks every benefit received in 40 days was undone. Not exactly what the church leaders had in mind!
CNN.com tells about a few young people who changed their ideas about Lenten sacrifices. They’ve given up the Internet! “Sixteen-year-old Emily, says she’s given up her access to . . . ‘I wanted to give up something that’s really hard for me.’ . . . She says she spends an average of two hours a day on .”
“It’s a form of spiritual awareness that allows you to reconnect with God,” said Jocelyn Chiu, an (read the article) sophomore and active member of her Presbyterian church. ‘By giving up something that used up so much of my time, I realized that I had been leaving my spiritual life behind.’”
The point of the Lenten season isn’t just to fill your children’s Easter baskets or prepare for spring planting. It is a time of serious self-reflection in which we remove ourselves from some of the most powerful attention-getters in our lives. For some, as stated above, it may be the internet and its social networking sites. The question we ask ourselves should be, Where do I spend most of my time, most of my thoughts, most of my money?
We are several weeks into the Lenten season, but it isn’t too late to bring this ancient tradition into your spiritual journey. If your time-waster is television, think about turning it off. You can always see the re-runs later. But for now you can spend a little more time reading the Bible or in prayer.
Maybe your “addiction” is spending money. So give to worthy causes. Maybe spend some time at a food bank helping those who aren’t as blessed as you. And, of course, if chocolate is your “weakness,” why not explore some healthy alternatives and maybe eat a few vegetables during ?
The point of Lenten “sacrifices” is not just doing without something you love, but taking time to learn what you are doing with your life. Some time ago a preacher said, “You can see how important God is in your life by examining how you spend your money.” To what do you dedicate your money? Is it to entertainment, new clothes, friends and excitement? Spend the next few weeks looking for ways to use your money to express your faith in Christ, by helping those you don’t know.
Instead of sending an e-mail, sit down and write a letter to someone who needs to hear an encouraging word. Spend some time reading your Bible or attending a Bible study class. Most of all, spend time talking to the One who is always ready to hear from you. Take time to know God and to discover the important things in life, the things that truly will last. Who knows? Maybe when the Easter baskets are empty, and you’re eating chocolate again, you just might find yourself in a better place, that of a closer and more vital relationship with God.
May God richly bless you this Lenten and Easter season.
Mary Kay Glunt
This devotional appeared in the February 2008 newsletter from MK Creations and Gifts.com