Fear, Faith & Love – Day 1
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Honestly hadn’t planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.
(borrowed from a recent tweet by Andy Crouch)
I wrote the majority of this meditation several years ago for another Lenten devotional guide, but after seeing a picture of the above tweet on Facebook the other day, I thought a bit of our current circumstance warranted acknowledgement. I mean, frankly, are we going to have to give up Easter for Lent?! We seem to be living in a surreal new world that none of us ever anticipated in our lifetime, and even our Lenten practices beg to take on a new look. Our challenge, should we choose to accept it, is how to find connection between the familiar and the unimaginable, and somehow find new ways to connect with and encourage one another.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” This question seems to dominate conversation among even nominal Christians between Ash Wednesday and Easter. And we find ourselves giving up sugar, chocolate, soft drinks, desserts – usually food items – in an effort to make our due sacrifice, or “fast,” for the Lenten season. Sometimes we joke about things we’d like to “give up” for Lent, such as dieting! In fairness, there are some great theologians and Christians who make a strong argument for exercising the discipline of fasting during the Lenten season, and the opportunity to focus more on our Lord as we deny ourselves earthly pleasures. What I am about to say is not intended to denigrate that perspective in any way. However, some of us have trouble finding this kind of meaningful result from “fasting” or “giving up” something during Lent. Where is the meaning in this season for us?
I have always found it personally difficult to “give up” something for Lent. My quandary seems to revolve around my inability to justify giving something up, knowing that the day Easter arrives I will take it right back up again. Even among my more disciplined friends, we have found great humor in their delight at returning to their vices at the conclusion of Lent. For me, the “giving up” has always been more of a test of my willpower (which is weak, I might add!), than about a renewed closeness to, or identification with, Christ. This is, perhaps, a personal flaw. But for those of you who share it, let me offer a hopeful perspective I discovered from reading Isaiah 58.
If you are unfamiliar with the fourteen powerful verses of Isaiah 58, I encourage you to read it in its entirety. In summary, this passage argues that true fasting is not about humbling and denying oneself for a day while still going about our everyday interactions with the world – this is rending one’s garments, rather than one’s heart. True fasting results in the breaking of our hearts for those in need around us – moving us to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, satisfy the needs of the oppressed. God isn’t looking for our empty gestures and outward “show” during Lent. God waits for us to give up our selves for Lent. It is only then that we will begin to fully understand what Christ gave up for us.
~ Cindy Sheppard