(a lenten reflection)
lent is the time of year that many christians devote to spiritual preparation for the world altering event of good friday and easter sunday. for many that preparation is found in the act of giving up something, typically a physical enjoyment of some kind, as a sign of sacrifice and connecting with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. Jesus did tell us to "denial yourself and pick up your cross". this directive is about moving away from self-centeredness to other-centeredness, just as Jesus laid down His life for others on the cross so that others might have the fullness of life. the tradition of "giving up" something for lent in rooted in this idea.
yet for many the "giving up" of something they like has become the exact opposite of the intention. how many of us have said, "i'm gonna give up sugar/ice cream/white flour/etc. for lent? we use lent as a reason to get our diet on track, to lose weight, or some other personal vanity. what happens to "sacrifice" when it is covertly used for selfish pursuits? remember the words of the prophet isaiah - " look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight...such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. is such the fast that I choose...a day acceptable to the Lord? is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your homes?"
God isn't calling us to "give up" but to "live up". live up to our call as disciples of Christ. live up to the commandment to "love our neighbors as ourselves". so instead of "sacrifices" that benefit our vanities, why not choose to use lent as a time for true preparation by living up to the call. maybe you will be drawn to visit a nursing home once a week, or to set time aside each day for bible study, or to put aside a dollar a day and on easter offer it to those in greatest need, or any number of actions that foster growth in the christian life. why not choose to put down the mask of "godliness" and pick up the crown of life, polishing it a bit with acts of kindness and love. this is the fast God desires - to be a blessing to others as a sign of the blessing you have received in Christ.
©2011 halley low