Growing up as a Protestant Christian, my parents never really stressed the importance of Lent. As a child and teen, I viewed it as only something Catholic-Christians participated in. However, as I learned more and grew as a young adult, I realized it didn't matter if I was a Catholic or not. The point was to make a choice to remove something in my life to, like I said before, build a closer relationship with the Lord.
Now, a few years ago, when I decided I was going to give something up for Lent, I will admit that I made "sacrifices" that were mostly for the sake of my benefit. Give something up for 40 days? Oh, that will be a great way for me to lose weight and force myself to stick with it-- no more sweets! Trying to save money? Perfect! I can totally do this with Lent-- no more shopping! Now, there's nothing wrong with deciding to give up any of these things for the season. However, I found that my heart wasn't in the right place for it. I found myself using Lent as a crutch to help me with a problem I wanted a solution to-- all I needed was some restraint and force. As odd as it sounds, this mind-set reminds me wanting a personal trainer at the gym to kick my butt into shape. A trainer is there to force you to do something you know you should and want to do, but need a little more push and shove to achieve. And, let's be honest-- when we need someone to force us to do something, usually there's a little resentment and bitterness involved in how we view them. So, naturally, I became sad when I would have to say no to a donut or take rain checks in shopping dates with friends. Lent became all about me and what I couldn't do. With this view, I was hardly reflecting on how the fasting and sacrifice would make me a better Christian and person in general.
Instead, I now have a clearer perspective on the Lent season. Rather than it being "the aggressive personal trainer at the gym", I am seeing it as "the best friend" of opportunities. A best friend is someone who can bring out the brightest of qualities in you and are there for support when you need them. They are there to question your choices to help guide you towards happiness and the best possible outcome. The way I see it, God knows we are not perfect and accepts us that way, but would like us to strive to be better because he knows that by doing good, and through positive growth, there is the brightest light at the end of the longest tunnel. He know's what's up and it is incredible.
"Lent is a time to intentionally look at our lives, remind us that we are people on a journey, and provide us with anticipation towards restoration." - B. Stahl
With that, this is a season of opportunity for me to really grow and rely on God instead of a particular habit, desire, or material items to remind me that I can't do it all alone and these worldly things won't help me more than He can.
This year, it was easy for me to decide on what I would be sacrificing. It is a habit I struggle with and constantly try to fix; it is something that definitely sets me back as a God-centered woman.
This Lent season, I am giving up my judgmental thoughts towards other people. Yes, I admit. I have such a hard time refraining from judgement. I struggle with this because, like so many others, it is easy to get caught up in our own lives and view our choices and behaviors as the right way. When someone else comes along that is different, it's easy to think things such as, "...they're weird, odd, dumb, crazy, uptight, insensitive, etc." These kinds of thoughts tend to put others down and uplift our own character. They are criticizing and can be degrading. However, God doesn't judge us and loves everyone as they are. If I am trying to be more like Christ, then I most definitely need to work on this. Additionally, I know that judgement can be painful. I know what it feels like to have someone judge you as someone that you truly are not whether it's because of misinterpretation and/or a result of gossip. Having gone through a long period of this during my early college years, I know how much it stinks to have preconceived thoughts about you that you can't control or change. So with that said, negative judgmental thoughts are getting the boot!
If you participate in this pre-Easter tradition, what are you giving up this Lent season? If you don't...what is something you are trying to shed from yourself? I'd love to hear about it.