I have to admit I have never known too much about Lent. Sure, I understand the basic concept of it but growing up in a Baptist church that never participated in Lent, I just never heard much about it. What I was pretty much told is that we didn't participate in Lent. I never really questioned it, because let's face it, I didn't want my parents making me give up something I enjoyed for a month. No way. I would just keep chocolate in my life and let everyone else handle that.
Then, I went to college and Lent was much more prevalent. It seemed that everyone participated regardless of denomination so I decided my sophomore year I would give it a go. I decided to give up dessert so I would lose a few lbs. I mean, sure I would also focus on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but losing a few of the freshman 20 wouldn't be a bad side effect. Well, that lasted all of about 2 days. Seriously, I used to live in a sorority house that had dessert after every meal so 2 days was probably a huge accomplishment.
What I never thought about or understood was what Lent was really supposed to be. It is supposed to be a time of sacrifice or giving up something you really enjoy to bring your focus to Christ. I mean, unless I am missing the boat here, it shouldn't be giving something up so that for the next, however many days, (I think 40) you openly complain on Facebook about how hard it is for you. It also should have never been about me giving up dessert to lose weight. Jesus's gift is free. Lent is an awesome way to reflect on that free gift, but Christ doesn't need us trying to pay penitence and then complaining about how hard it is for us.
I have no idea why this has been on my mind lately, but I think Lent can seem to be more of a trend than an actual calling to something sacrificial. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving something up for Lent, but there is also absolutely no benefit to it when you do it for the wrong reasons. Just like everything else in our life.
The other day we went out to eat with some friends who I have known for several years, but just recently got to know the mom better when they started fostering. We met at Larry's pizza and between the 2 families we had 13 people and 9 of them were kids. They have 3 bio kids and 2 foster girls. As we were sitting there eating (that's the joy of Larry's….the kids can run rampant and it's so loud no one knows) I found myself thinking about how we often think we have to give things up to make a sacrifice. Sure, people who foster give up things in order to do so. As do missionaries, teachers, church workers, etc. However, what about just allowing yourself to be open to something else during Lent. Maybe it's just being more sensitive to what God might be asking you to do? Maybe it's opening up and trying something new?
As we were talking that night, the foster mom told us one of their foster girls asks every single night before bed if they will eat breakfast the next morning. Talk about heartbreaking. At 4 years old this girl already realizes that she might not eat. This foster mom will never be the same. We hear about kids out there who don't have enough to eat, but until you invite one into your home it isn't as real.
I guess in a weird rambling way this is what I mean. We don't have to give up our comforts and something we love to experience Jesus this Easter season. We can experience it by not closing our eyes to all that is going on around us. We can experience Him when we open our eyes to the children that are all around us. We can also do it by giving up our favorite food, but that shouldn't be all we discover. I recently listened to someone talk about praying for God to make her uncomfortable. That's what I hope to take on this Lent season.