Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lent

The season of Lent is upon us. Truthfully, I don't remember having my attention drawn to Lent before I was in college. At least, I don't remember anyone encouraging me to give anything up for this period of time. The first time I participated in this season was in the mid-nineties, and I gave up chocolate. If you know me at all, you know how serious this is. I did it, though, and I learned a good deal from it. I also celebrated the end of the season with some amazing chocolate cheesecake, but that's not what this is about.

I haven't necessarily participated in Lent every year since then, but I have had a few seasons of intentionally fasting from something in order to allow more room for God to replace it with something else. Last year I fasted from Facebook, which was significant for me. However, if someone sent me a direct message through Facebook, I did reply to them. I just didn't go perusing through all the other options. Although I feel that Facebook is a really effective communication and reconnecting tool, I do realize that there is much temptation to waste time on it. So I gave that up for Lent last year, and it was good for me. It helped me have a greater perspective on my priorities.

Over the last few days Kevin and I have been talking with our kids about Lent and the purpose it serves. Though we aren't pressing them to give up anything, we asked them to think about it. Callie has already decided to give up carbonated drinks. She doesn't drink them that often, but she really enjoys them. So I thought this was a good choice for her. Caleb and Katie are still contemplating it. Katie just knows that she will not be giving up her baby dolls, as Caleb suggested!

When I think of Lent, I can't help but think of one of my very favorite movies--Chocolat! If you haven't seen it, please take the time to do so. You won't regret it. In the movie, the characters deal with Lent, legalism, pride, appearances, and intolerance. Quite the heavy subjects. And I believe that, in the end, each of the characters has learned and grown in some way. Watch it. If you've already seen it, watch it again. I plan to.

I think that what we give up for Lent is not nearly as important as why we give it up. It needs to be something that really matters to us--something that holds our time and attention--something we long for. Then when we withhold this thing from ourselves, we need to turn those longings and desires and attention specifically toward God. However, it's not a contest of our wills; it's a shaping of our hearts. It's an awakening and a realization of the things that we let cloud our vision in this life, which may or may not be the thing we are choosing to abstain from during this season. In fact, I think that if we are choosing a "bad" thing in our lives to abstain from during Lent but then have every intention of going right back to it starting on Easter Sunday, then nothing at all has been gained from the experience.

There are some very good things from which we can abstain during these weeks that are okay to be missed and okay to pick back up on Easter. And that thing is different from person to person. The decision is a private one between God and individuals, and we should not judge each other for "picking something easy." Nor should we think highly of ourselves for "picking something hard." These weeks are to serve as time for personal reflection, the abstinence to serve as that constant reminder of Christ's sacrifice and His love for us.

Maybe we should do this more often.

8 comments:

Jen said...

Amen!! You're welcome to come do my Ash Wednesday sermon tomorrow at school - I haven't gotten quite as far in my reflections as you have! We're on the same track, though... I'll post my sermon on my blog tomorrow night after I deliver it for the fourth time in one day (three at school and one in Vicksburg).

I may be encouraging the kids to take something on if they aren't sure about giving something up - a new time for prayer each day, a service project, reading something spiritual... I agree with you that the what isn't nearly as important as the why. It's all about strengthening and deepening our relationship with the One whose love for us is stronger than even death...

Thank you for sharing your reflections!

Julie Nolte Owen said...

Thank you for this thoughtful essay that became my morning meditation for Ash Wednesday.

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Thanks for reading, ladies, and thank you for your encouragement. Jennifer, I look forward to reading your sermon! FOUR times today?! Wow.

John, Jessica, Will, Clay and Joe said...

I guess I'll have to watch Chocolat! Did you see Babette's Feast? Some of the same themes...I've been pondering - more in terms of "a Bible reading plan" but I guess it might apply to Lent - "that which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is Spirit." May God do the work in you this season!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

No, I haven't seen BABETTE'S FEAST. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

Jeremy said...

Wow you are so right! Thanks for sharing that! It IS all about the heart now isn't it!

megan said...

Well said preacher lady! This was timely, even a week into Lent.

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

By the way, Caleb decided to give up chocolate milk. Katie . . . isn't really giving anything up. But she's four. :)