I started this post on Wednesday but it took a few days for my thoughts to gel…
I grew up Roman Catholic and attended their schools for 10 years. That means that on this day every year from childhood well into adulthood I went to church and had the priest rub ashes on my forehead. It also meant that I had to choose something to give up for the 40 some-odd days of Lent. I say some-odd because of the screwy way they count the days, I think Sundays are not included or something. Anyway, I digress. As a child, and even as a young adult, I did not understand the two spiritual disciplines most often associated with Lent, fasting and giving something up. As a more mature adult I am beginning to learn more about them, how they really are the same thing and how to apply them to my life. It was all a mystery to me.
I started attending Protestant churches when I met my ex-husband. I was attracted to the little church his family attended because the pastor stood up in front of the congregation and used the Bible as his reference when giving his message. I learned more about the Bible in 6 months of attending church with my ex-husband’s family than I did in 10 years of Parochial schools. Making the switch permanent was not a difficult decision.
About seven years ago I began attending a local non-denominational church. I like this church a lot because, once again, the pastor stands up in front of the congregation and preaches from the Bible he holds in his hand. I don’t always find Pastor Brad’s messages to be pleasant, more often I find them to be convicting, they often make me squirm in my seat in recognition of the life I should be living but so often fail to. I have learned a lot from Brad and my walk towards spiritual maturity has been facilitated by him.
A few years ago we were approaching the Lenten season. As a church Lakeside doesn’t really practice Lent. Brad really doesn’t encourage the whole giving up something for Lent thing. Although he does give something up and he usually speaks of it during his messages. He approaches it as a Spiritual Discipline, one that will help us grow in our faith but not one that is required of us. He speaks of it not as giving something up but of fasting. Brad himself has been known to fast from sweets, or ice cream, or one particularly difficult year for him – television. The idea here is to take something in our lives that is in danger of becoming an idol for us and set it aside in favor of spending time with the Lord, take a habit or addiction that we want to transform and place it in God’s hands. If you can give up television or smoking or sweets or internet porn for 40 days, maybe, just maybe, with God’s help, you can give it up for forever.
This is a different concept for me. When I was a kid fasting meant eating fish on Ash Wednesday and all Lenten Fridays. It meant that on those days we were fasting that what we ate for breakfast and lunch combined was less than we ate for dinner. It meant spending Friday afternoons in church for the Stations of the Cross. It meant the smell of incense and those hard things we knelt on in the pews. I’m not saying any of those things are bad. I am saying that I did not understand the purpose and motives behind the practices. I do understand Pastor Brad’s explanation of the Lenten season. I do understand the practices he recommends. It’s all about repentance and preparing my heart to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection in about 6 weeks. It’s all about Jesus and not about me.
That said I am not entirely sure how I am observing the Lenten season this year. I guess I’m off to a bad start. Good thing God allows do-overs, isn’t it? I’m going to get offline and talk with Him about it. I’m positive He’ll lead me in the direction He wants me to go.