Wednesday, February 22, 2012

lent: baby steps.

{photo by Max Wanger}

Every year, I have to trust that God knows my heart, that making my way through the 40 days of Lent as earnestly as I know how is enough for Him.

It could become rather legalistic, I guess, this putting off/taking on process that occurs between now and Easter. I suppose I could bind myself -- and those around me -- to the sacrifices I make, suppose my days could become more about the sacrifice and my pride, and less about the Father.

But I have to trust that He rewards and is pleased with my efforts, feeble though they may be. I have to trust that even though my own church community doesn't follow the church calendar or offer help in this particular journey, He is there each step of the way, recognizing that I am doing this for Him.

I am learning, each year, more and more about the Lenten season. I know now that it is really less about what you give up (if you give up anything at all), and more about your attitude during the 40 days. It is about remembrance and memorial, about taking the steps of the Savior with Him up until that very black, black Friday, then rejoicing in the absolute miracle of His resurrection. It is about taking part in the journey Christ took, and sometimes that manifests itself in new habits or in sacrifices, in going without or in putting something on.

This year, I am choosing to drink only water over the next 40 days. After reading this helpful article (a must-read if you're new to the church calendar and to Lent in particular), I've decided to take note of any time I would have had something other than water to drink: any time I would have ordered a Chick-fil-A lemonade or gotten a Coke from the vending machine. The amount of money I would have spent on sodas and fruit drinks, I plan to donate to Blood:Water Mission through their 40 Days of Water program.

I do plan on instituting one other Lenten practice this season, to make sure these 40 days don't become entirely about drinking only water and instead bring the focus back to the King and what He has done for me.

Once a week, Jordan and I (me by choice, Jordan because he shares a home with me) will be going without lights in the evening. This isn't about electricity: I won't be using the money I saved on our electric bill to donate to a local charity. Instead, this is about time and peace. This is about reserving a part of my week for the quiet and the still. It's about slowing down and breathing deep, about taking a little time each week to remind myself what Lent is really all about. I was inspired by this article; my prayer is that Lent this year will mean more to me than dietary restrictions or even life-changing habits. My hope is that by setting aside one night a week to go without television, without computer, without iPhone, without chores... I will remember that life itself isn't about any of those things. It's about the Father. I'm not nearly quiet enough to realize that on a regular basis.

I've been observing Lent (in some form or another) for a few years now, and I've taken a lot of baby steps to reach the point where I'm even beginning to understand what it fully means and how it should probably look. I think baby steps are okay, though. We need the milk before we can have the meat. We needed the law before we could fully grasp grace.

This year, I hope I can remember what Lent is really about; I hope I can open my heart to what He has to say, especially in the moments of rest and quiet.


What are you doing to commemorate Lent this year?


MichaelaRae said...

This will be the first year I observe Lent and it's helpful to hear how other's view and observe it. I decided to do something very similar - no coffee, coke, etc. But I also want it to be less about just giving something up and more about my attitude and what it means to pursue God's heart. Thanks for this post!

jenna said...

I am stumbling through in short, staggered baby steps as well, and Annie, the growth in understand that I experience each year is largely because of you and the insight you share during this season of Lent. I am printing this article to refer to as I strive to honor my Lord as best I can during this time. I feel like it has the potential to be a more significant season than any before, if I allow myself to take advantage of it. I do not want to deny myself such an opportunity from God.

Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Annie. God has used them to stir some things in me already.

Brittany said...

I don't know how long your blog has been all redesigned (it's so beautiful), but I love it. I've been reading in Google Reader mostly, so I'm missing out on stuff like this.

I love that idea of just leaving the lights off at night--when it's supposed to be dark anyway. I may adopt that and try to do it once a week. And I know we're kindred spirits a little more because you talked about Chick-fil-A lemonade. It's heaven, right?

shanna said...

I love the way you're approaching this Lenten season and hope God blesses you with peace and greater measures of faith through it---actually, I know He will.

Jules said...

I love your new blog design, Annie, if it is indeed new! Like a previous reader mentioned, I read through a reader so sometimes I miss things.

This year for Lent I am giving up negative self talk, and making a conscious effort to treat myself the way the way I teach my sons to treat themselves.

Annie said...

I love this post. This Lent I thought about giving up social media - again, as I gave up blogging last year - but I felt less inclined to make it align formally to the forty days of Lent and more just to make it align to how God was speaking. And just now I feel He's calling me to silence, which is strange and a little unnerving but suits me pretty well, especially now since I don't feel I have much to say. {But since I just left you a long comment on the post before this, am about to leave another one, and still have other posts of yours to read, I have a feeling that last sentence may become the subject of strong debate. ;] }.

I love this statement of yours: "We needed the law before we could fully grasp grace." I never thought of it that way - but I love it. How would we understand the grace of being forgiven from sin if we didn't know the law by which the sin is defined?