I must start by confessing that I belong to a denomination that doesn’t typically observe Lent. However, over the past several years, I have noticed a growing number of people participating in this tradition regardless of what their denomination does. As a result, our family has discussed the significance of Lent and talked about choosing something to give up but have never fully committed.
Our First Lent
This year our family decided that we would do more than talk about the virtues of Lent. We committed to actually participating. We all chose one thing to give up and have all stuck with it so far. Though the temptation to throw in the towel is strong at times, I’m glad we are all holding steady because the truth is that we are learning much more than we are sacrificing.
Here’s what I have learned so far…
Lesson #1 — The fact that I want to cling tighly to an unhealthy behavior or habit is a sure sign that I need to give it up.
The beauty of Lent is that I get to decide what level of sacrifice I’m willing to make. I can give up something that won’t really be missed, or I can choose something that I will really struggle to do without. In making this decision, I had to ask myself why there were some things that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice and if anything should have that kind of power in my life. The answer I found was that the things I was unwilling to let go of had way too much power in my life. Lent has provided an opportunity to turn that all around.
Lesson #2 — The ultimate beneficiary of “giving something up” is me.
Though I have struggled with missing the thing I chose to give up, I have to honestly admit that I have felt so much better without it being part of my daily routine. My hope and prayer is that this time of fasting from something that has had a powerful hold on me for so long will set me up to have a healthier relationship with it once Lent is over.
Lesson #3 — Lent gives me a tremendous opportunity to set a good example for my children.
I am so thankful we are observing Lent as a family. It has provided an avenue for some deep, thoughtful conversations. It has also proved to be a bonding experience as we encourage one another to hold fast to our commitment. It is a powerful reminder of the incredible amount of influence I have in the lives of my children.
Lesson #4 — Not much has changed since the Garden of Eden.
As I brooded over all that I would be missing out on during Valentine’s Day and at our children’s birthday party, I was reminded about the command given in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve they could have anything but the forbidden fruit. However, instead of focusing on the abundance they had been given, they obsessed about the one thing they could not have. Likewise, I can choose to fixate on the one thing I have promised to avoid, or I can turn my focus to the abundance God has provided.
Lesson #5 — I can never sacrifice as much as Christ did for me.
Though all of these lessons have impacted my life, the most profound lesson I have learned so far is the fact that I can’t out sacrifice Jesus. When I contemplate all that He endured for me, I have no right to complain about anything. In fact, my “sacrifice” looks like filthy rags. When I am tempted to cheat or quit altogether, I’m reminded of what Philippians 2:5–8 says:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
This passage puts everything into perspective for me and reminds me of the amazing love that was poured out for me on the cross. There truly could never be a greater sacrifice.
Are you observing Lent this year? If so, I would love to hear what you are learning.