Diary of a Lunatic: Give up

(Hey everybody! I write a monthly article for our church's newsletter. I thought I'd share this month's article here on the blog. Enjoy!)

I remember as a young boy going to youth club (our church’s version of the much better named JAM) during the season of lent. At first, I thought everyone was saying lint, and I was a bit confused as to why we had a Christian holiday to celebrate that stuff dad makes me pick out of the drier. But later that night, we met with our youth leader and she discussed what lent was all about.

Somewhere in the discussion, we were told that one of the key points of Lent is that Christians the world over would choose something to give up between Ash Wednesday and Easter. My initial response was to give up vegetables, but I was quickly overruled. As it turns out, you are supposed to give up something of value to you that is in fact getting in the way of your faith.

As the years have come and gone, I’ve given up a whole host of things for lent. Chocolate. Pop. Fried Food. Coffee (that was a bad year). And yet, the whole thing seemed a bit unsettling to me. I would give up whatever I felt was standing in the way of my faith (as I type this I have discovered that apparently what I eat has a lot to do with my faith walk...), but then Easter morning I would relapse and begin consuming it, sometimes with even more passion and zeal than I had the day before. It just didn’t seem right.

Or how about Marti Gras? The whole celebration is based on the idea that the next day (being Ash Wednesday) you’re going to give up whatever it is you love the most, so you better consume or celebrate it as much as you possibly can now! Kind of like going on a spending spree at Diary Queen the night before you start your big diet.

Is it me, or is that kind of approach to lent misleading or even misguided? In reality, the season of lent is designed to strengthen our walk with the Savior, to enhance our faith. As I think about it now, I think the early church fathers were brilliant in the timing of this season. Just as winter has lost it’s majesty and beauty and has turned into ugly slushy muck, we’re given a chance to strengthen our faith. If you’re like me, you’re going to need it to get to spring.

What if instead of giving something up, we gave in? I’ve been talking with a bunch of my friends about the concept of Irresistible Grace, this idea that no matter how hard we fight it, Christ chases us with his love and we will inevitably give in and love him back. So what if we spent this season of lent giving in to that love rather than giving up something that will only come back into our lives at Easter?

Maybe instead of giving up, we should be adding on. If you’re anything like me, your quiet time with God usually lasts for a day or two, week tops. Then the life’s insanity takes hold, and you’re left asking yourself where the days have gone. What if instead of giving something up, we added on to our faith? A new spiritual discipline? Perhaps a renewed zeal towards quite time, or scripture meditation, or even a weekly walk on the Westminster Labyrinth.

The obvious problem with this approach is that it’s a little bit harder. I admit it would probably be easier to pick something I could probably live without anyway and go on a 40 day cleanse. But this “give in” approach requires attention, or discipline. So I would recommend a prayer partner, or an accountability group. Someone you trust, someone who can keep you honest about your faith and what you’d like to add on to it. After all, the entire idea behind church is the idea of community.

And while you’re at it, stop by my blog every now and again. (http://psychoyouthmin.blogspot.com) I’ll be sharing tips and tricks along the way throughout lent to help us all add on to our spiritual lives.

May we all give in to the love that pursues us.




Beth said...

Good stuff, J!