Lent is starting. Ash Wednesday is here.
This brings up a treasure trove of emotions.
Being raised Catholic Lent meant that we wouldn’t eat meat on Fridays and we would “give something up”…meaning chocolate or swearing or complaining. Kind of like a diet. Temporary, restricting and doesn’t create lasting change. At least that’s how it felt for me.
There are things I love about Lent…Fish Fry anyone! I mean, seriously, fish and chips! Yay! Let’s think about this. I’m giving up sweets but I’m shoveling in fish and chips. Hmmm….
I’ve been seriously considering my motives for what I give up during Lent and I have found them suspect at best. I tend to give up something I want to give up, something that will ultimately benefit me like chocolate or sweets in general. I mean think about it, we can lose weight and get healthier and feel holy! It’s a win/win.
I’ve been praying about this. I’m looking for God’s direction here. I don’t want to take part in rituals that have no meaning for me. I want to understand what I am doing. I want everything I do, in life and in Lent to lead me to Jesus. I want to nourish my relationship with Jesus.
So now I ask myself before I do anything “religious” or “churchy”…does it lead me to a closer relationship with Jesus? Does it lead me to Grace and Joy and Freedom in Christ? Is it helping me become more like Christ? Am I growing as a Christ follower?
Am I getting to know Him better by reading and contemplating and studying and talking about His word?
Is this leading me to pray more, to spend time in quiet stillness more often, to listen to His voice?
Am I muscling through something with gritted teeth because I feel I “should” or because “that’s what we do” or because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t do it?
Am I operating out of fear worried about punishment or am I acting out of joy accepting of God’s grace?
Am I trying to earn my way to heaven or am I aware that I cannot earn grace…that it is a free gift given to me by God who loves me?
Why am I doing what I do?
Am I showing everyone how holy I am by suffering in public…putting my “giving up things” out there for everyone to see so they can admire me?
Am I thinking too much about how people see me?
Am I acting different on the outside, externally showing signs of faith while inside closing my heart to His spirit that brings true transformation?
Why do I do what I do?
How am I different because of what I’m doing? What great work is He doing in me?
Am I letting God in? Or am I “managing” God and deciding where He is allowed to go? Am I refusing to open my heart?
Do I trust God?
I have realized that I eat a lot of sweets when I feel stressed. And when I feel sad. And when I feel overwhelmed. And when I feel bored. And when I feel Stuck.
And never once has the act of eating sweets – be it a pound of M&Ms or a bag of Twizzlers – never once has that taken away stress or sadness or overwhelming feeling or boredom or the feeling of being Stuck. When I’m done eating I usually feel worse. I often have regret. (and a stomachache.)
I think we all have something we turn to when we feel stressed and sad and overwhelmed and bored and stuck.
I believe that’s what we should give up. That thing that gets in the middle of us and God. Because here’s the thing. At times of stress and sadness and overwhelm and boredom and sticky, stuck “ness”, God wants us to turn to him. He wants us to pray and to read His Word and spend time with Him in quiet stillness. He wants to fill us up.
That’s what I think He’s telling me. Give up whatever it is you use to fill up at those times of stress and come to me. Don’t immediately try to turn off those feelings by stuffing yourself or drinking or shopping or gossiping or surfing the internet or exercising excessively or whatever it is that you do. Come to me.
Sit with me. Breathe. Feel my love and my grace as we work through some of this stuff. It’s okay. I get it. I’m here.
Lent for me this year is an opportunity to put my faith and trust in God. To loosen the reigns a little and stop muscling through my days and rest in His grace.
In Holy Yoga, one of our favorite sayings is “Comfortable being uncomfortable”. It’s okay to not feel perfect all the time, it’s okay to not be “happy” all the time. When we feel “off” it’s our cue to go to God…to replenish…to be loved…to receive His Grace.
Lent can be uncomfortable. It’s not an easy journey Jesus is on and when we walk with Him, it’s not easy for us either. We are more serious and somber during Lent. We go into that desert and we feel thirsty. We allow ourselves to feel hungry and to feel the “holes” inside of us…we sit in our uncomfortableness and we feel our need for Him.
I need Him.
This Lent I will go to Him to fill me up.
I’m praying for transformation this time.
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