Lent has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s because I was born Catholic, I don’t know…but ever since I can remember, even after my family left the Catholic Church, we have always participated in the practice of Lent. At first it was kind of a trivial thing to do, I’d give up chewing gum or beating up my younger brother…you know, things I enjoyed, but that wasn’t a huge loss to me (although beating him up was a highlight sometimes). From there I almost started to view Lent the same way I think the Pharisee’s would have. I would try to give up something huge…like everything but bread and water and I would let everyone know how much I was sacrificing. I don’t think I made it the whole 40 days on that one by the way.
Over the past few years I have started to look at Lent with a new light. I have come to see it as an experience in which we give something up, or add something, to our lives to remind us of the sacrifice Christ gave for us. To help us think about what kind of person we would be if we lived without _______ . And if that person is who God desires for us to be.
This year I have decided to follow the 2011 Experiential Lent Calendar provided by Rob Bell and Mars Hill Church. (http://marshill.org/teaching/files/2011/03/LentCal2011.pdf) I saw this calendar last year after lent was almost over and it really excited me for a couple of reasons. You see…I get bored easily. So, the idea of adding something or fasting from something on a day to day basis is right up my alley. I love the description they have on the calendar about Lent:
“Lent is a season in which we practice giving up something important in order to refocus our lives on God. By fasting from certain things, we practice dying to ourselves. And by refocusing our lives, living to God, we intentionally choose things that help us become the kind of people God desires us to be.”
We live in a society that pressures us into a lifestyle of “more.” More stuff, more food, more money, more debt, more to-do’s, more speed. By stepping back and giving up what we are told is our right to have, we proclaim to those around us that we are not here to satisfy our desires. By giving up what’s convenient, easy and comfortable we are saying that we choose a life that wants more of God and less of me (there’s something biblical about that).
The calendar starts out perfectly…Say the Shema in the morning and in the evening. If you don’t know, the Shema is the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism. Practicing Jews recite it twice a day, as well as teach it to their children before they go to bed. It is traditional for the Shema to be the last words before they go to sleep. The short version of the Shema is Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” What a perfect way to start out a season of sacrifice. From the very beginning to have on your mind and in your heart what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment.
Personally, I hope this is something that I don’t forget. What would it look like if the first words out of our mouths each day were reminding us to love God with everything we had? What if the last thing we uttered before the narcolepsy kicks in and we pass out is pulling our hearts back to God? What kind of person would I be if on the forefront of my mind each day was loving God with all my heart, soul and strength? How would that affect my interactions with people? How would that change how I look at people? How would that change how I respond to junk that happens each day?
I think I would like to find out…join me?