This past week I attended an Ash Wednesday service with some of my best friends. As we sat down, I reluctantly posed a question that I was somewhat embarrassed of:
“So…um…what exactly is the significance of Ash Wednesday?”
* Blank Stares *
A game of telephone progressed down our entire row of 20-something, madly-in-love-with-Jesus, friends. And the answer came back…
No one knew.
Well, at least I wasn’t alone! The service was great; very moving and a deep reminder of the sin that we all participate in and how important repentance is in our lives.
And of course when I got home, I did the first thing I could think of: Googled “Ash Wednesday”
Our good friend Wikipedia cleared up the question a little bit. It also confirmed what we had pieced together as the purpose of Ash Wednesday: it symbolizes the start of Jesus’ 40 days of temptation, fasting and prayer leading up to Easter and His sacrifice. Otherwise known as the first day of Lent.
Now onto the big reveal of my title…I’m giving up nothing.
I’m sometimes very entertained by what people choose to give up for Lent; it’s a decision that seems to rank right up there with New Year’s Resolutions.
But believe it or not, Lent is not about survival of the fittest. It’s not a game of “who can be more disciplined” or really how strong you are at all. It’s actually about our complete and utter weakness; remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us and focusing on your relationship with Him.
And for some reason, giving up chocolate or soda just doesn’t do that for me.
The past few years I have made a point to not actually give anything up. I did try. One year in college I fasted on Fridays. What I came to understand was that I spent all day focusing on how hungry I was…on telling people I was fasting for Lent (because bragging is what every good Christian does)…and eventually caving and gorging on an entire sleeve of Thin Mints at work (yes, that actually happened. More than once.) What I came to understand is that giving up something for Lent didn’t help me to focus on Jesus unless I took that saved time and dedicated it to Him and allowed Him to fill me instead of a worldly item. So, I changed my game plan.
Instead, I now make the decision to do what is necessary to make Jesus my focus for these 40 days. I give up whatever I need to give up to make sure I have time with Him each day. One day that might be tv; the next it might be an hour of sleep when I’m really tired. But regardless, I’m taking that saved time and depending on Jesus to give me what I need. And that is the purpose of this season, to me.
So I wonder, what are you giving up? (If anything.) And how are you using that sacrifice/time to go to Jesus and let Him fill you?