On Ash Wednesday, my friend posted this on Facebook: What will you be fasting and resisting temptation from? Immediately I commented: Negativity.
I think I was supposed to say chocolate.
It seems that the custom is to give up something desired — something that would be a sacrifice to be without. The sacrificed thing is not necessarily something horrible. After all, 40 days later we can pick it up again, right?
My brand of Christianity doesn’t observe the liturgical year except for Easter and Christmas, so I don’t know much about it. I looked up “lent” in the dictionary and found that it’s “past and past participle of lend”. Then I realized I needed to capitalize the L and saw that it’s “the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness”.
Now I understand why people give up Lindt truffles or something else that would be hard to go without; it’s meant to mirror the sacrifice and subsequent suffering of Jesus. Sadly, this is nowhere near a comparison; it not only belittles but distorts what Jesus did in the wilderness.
Jesus went without food for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11). His purpose wasn’t penitence (He had no need to repent). His purpose wasn’t to suffer. It wasn’t to appreciate what He had. It wasn’t to use meal time for prayer instead. Though I’m sure He suffered, gained appreciation, and prayed constantly, those were not His goals. His purpose was to descend to a point of weakness that made Him realize His complete dependence on His Father.
When the devil came to mess with Jesus, he tempted Him to rely on Himself rather than the Father. The devil knew that this was the key. Only when Jesus passed this test could He go forward with His mission: to put on record a sinless human life and to absorb the consequence of sin.
Why did I say that?
I don’t feel obligated to observe Lent. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not a family or personal tradition. But any opportunity to contemplate what Jesus did for me — and to respond — seems worthwhile.
Negativity. Why did I say that? Why was that the reflex answer to my friend’s question?
I know where it came from. I’ve had a growing intolerance for negativity. It’s everywhere. I can’t control it in others, but I can commit to inviting God to remove it from my system.
Instead of making a sacrifice and consequently suffering, I’m inviting God to make me more like Him. After all, that’s why Jesus gave His life: so that Imago Dei (God’s loving character) can be restored in me (Genesis 1:27). Part of that lifelong process is to eliminate negativity from my life. (I find that the best way to do that is to embrace an eternal perspective.)
I might not be observing Lent in a customary way, but it’s how my heart responds when I think about what Jesus did for me. I urge you — during Lent or any time — to let your mind contemplate Jesus and then let your heart respond to Him, and I’d love to know what that looks like for you.
⇒ How do you do Lent? What would you give up if you observed Lent? I invite you to leave a comment below.