the challenge of sacrifice.

Lent.

I feel like every year it rolls around and I’m googling, going what is that again? [confessions of a true preacher’s kid]. I know about “Fat Tuesday,” Fasnacht Day, and my this-week-recent epiphany that those aren’t just a Lancaster County thing, it’s Pancake Day to the rest of the world. 

But what is lent again?

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I really love the way Ann Voskamp describes it in her own variation of what this day means.

“Okay… Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

So it’s that time before Easter when we prepare, we think on, we realize the greatness of what once happened that has forever changed us. Meditation on the foundation of Christian belief. 

What is lent to you?

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Somewhere along the line I picked up on this whole giving up stuff for lent trend. I gave up my share of social media sites ranging from the days of Xanga to the more recent, e-mail. I traded in my fav rap music for WJTL, and at one point I completely gave up shopping for anything deemed “unneccesary.” (At that point I was living at home so this ruled out pretty much everything). I was devoted in my choices and diligent in my upkeep, asking friends and family to hold me accountable, and even handing my debit card over to my mother. But there is one lent I will never forget.

Five years ago I gave up desserts for lent, and it led me down a path that I never would have chosen. In my mind I was choosing something that, like my many other pledges, meant something to me and would be difficult to live without. I’m a sucker for chocolate and this seemed like the most appropriate choice to induce due suffering during this time of sacrifice. It didn’t take long for the legalism in me to grow, “Sorry I can’t eat that chewy bar, it’s s’more flavored and that is a dessert.” “The ingredients on this box of oat bran say 5g sugar, I would probably consider this a dessert.” “Yea, um, peanut butter is used in icing and icing is a dessert soooo..no thanks.” 

 

You get the picture. 

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If you’ve read my story before then you can guess where this is going. It was about this time, five years ago, that I allowed myself to fall into a trap of obsession that led me where I never should have gone. I wasn’t choosing lent as a means of intimacy with the Lord, I was choosing it as a means of control, a good kick-in-the-butt to get me where I wanted to go but just hadn’t. 

I would spend too much, then panic, so I’d offer up spending.

I’d like and post and comment too much so I’d freak out and delete the app.

I’d wanna get fit so why not swear off “bad foods?” 

and the list goes on.

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This is not a piece written with the intent to criticize. Whether you celebrate lent with sacrifice or you don’t celebrate at all, you are the one who knows the heart in your decisions.

This is my challenge to you.

Is lent really in the purging and the self-criticism if we break? Is it about how long we can stay away? And God-forbid we succumb, because then the fast is broken.

What is the heart behind your lent, behind your pledge to give of time, of resources, of yourself?

I believe that there is a beauty in the failure, because that is when I am truly saying

 

thank You. I need You. what You did, it’s incomparable.

incomprehensible. 

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“Lent isn’t about forfeiting stuff as much as it’s about spiritual formation.

…To empty the soul to know the filling of God.”

-Ann Voskamp