Today is the start of Lent. A period in the church were it prepares for the coming of Christ. Children are giving up candy and adults are giving up their Diet Coke addiction. Catholics are fasting, giving up meat. But after the 40 days, those given up items are right back. As a child, Lent was the worst. More church serves, more rosary times. My mom makes a huge deal of this time. I never really understood why. However, I understand now.
The Lenten season is a time of connecting. Lent is universal. You don’t have to be Catholic, Lutheran, or any religion to practice some of the traditions. Heck, Jesus might not even be your man. But it is a really good time to look inside of yourself and find room for change. Of looking within yourself and seeing things and objects that may hinder your relationship with Christ. I always looked for the physical reasons I wasn’t as close in my relationship with God. It’s easier to pick out the obvious rather than the hidden.
I am giving up excuses. My excuses of why I can’t be closer to Christ. For example, every other weekend when the boys are with their dad, I don’t go to church. Why? I get to sleep in. I went out the night before. I need to clean my house. On and on it goes. I find excuses to connect with Him. I find excuses to be vulnerable with Him. With myself too.
Are you ready? Are you ready to look within yourself and find fault? Find things where you are lacking? It is not easy. It is not fun. Are you ready to admit where you would like change? In yourself. In your home. In your work. Can you use this season to change?
Give up social media. Because it distracts you from your children and spouse more than you would like.
Give up fast food. Because you eat it too much and you know that is not healthy for you.
Give up alcohol. Because you make really bad decisions when you have one too many.
Give up things. Because you have a lot. Clothes, shoes, papers, toys. Donate. Purge your closets. You have been holding on to things far too long and the weight of them is crushing you.
Give up politics. Because commenting and reading about them upsets you so much. You never feel better about yourself after getting all worked up.
Give up excuses. Because it is easier to do than be alone in Christ.
Give up grudges. They hurt you more than you realize.
Give more time. In church, at your child’s school, at home, to you.
Give of your talents. Volunteer, take a meal to a friend, bake for the new neighbors down the street.
Give a smile. Everyday to someone.
Give forgiveness. Because it gives you peace.
Give a random act of kindness. The usual coffee run in the morning now includes the person behind you.
Give friendship. After 2 years, you finally introduce yourself to the people that moved in across from you. Or you extend kindness to a coworker who you really don’t care for.
Lent is not all about excluding but including. More prayer. More love. More kindness. More compassion. More giving of yourself. Lent is my favorite time of the year. Because it forces me to look, really look at myself and see where I can grow. Admit to what is holding me back. In my relationship with Jesus. In my relationship with my friends and family. In my relationship with myself. Lent is a time to grow. Grow into a better person. Loving person. Stronger person.
The big kicker. Do it silently. Say what?! I want people to know what I am doing. I want the praise. The acknowledgement. If I am going to do this, I want recognition. Why do anything if no one notices?
He does. He knows what you are doing. We have grown so use to sharing and receiving instantaneous feedback that we have become addicted to this. Through Facebook likes, Instagram shares, Bumble swipes. Our validation is through others. We look to others to lift us up.
Give it up. And give it to God.
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. -Matthew 6:16-18
Are you ready? Are you ready to look within yourself and see what you need to change? Are you ready to give up? Are you ready to give? Are you ready to receive the reward? Are you ready to change for the better? I know I am. I am ready.