Today is the first Sunday of Lent. In 40 days, it will be Good Friday. So today I’m beginning a series of days of “decrease.”
I’ve written for years about Lent. Mainly because I’m still Learning Lent, as I wrote in 2013. My childhood faith tradition did not recognize a practice of Lenten sacrifice. But as I shared eight years ago, “Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation. We renounce to be reborn. We break away to become.”
In 2015, I shared another new learning on Lent. Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue. We are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way.
Even last year, I grappled with the season (years I give up, years I give back…). I tried to give up yelling. (Little bit reminds me today it wasn’t that successful. And THAT was pre-COVID.)
I missed this kick off to Lent this past week. Mainly because on Ash Wednesday over half of Houston WAS sacrificing without power, water, or cell service. We GAVE UP a ton of stuff.
But not for 40 days.
As I sat in church this morning (thankful to be back after surgery) and in the pastor’s class afterwards, Lenten sacrifices swirled in my head. No one specifically coming to the fore. Then someone mentioned Lent as a period of decrease.
John the Baptist’s words from John Chapter 3 immediately jumped into my head, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
There is a lot in my life there is TOO MUCH of. Things which weaken my faith or take my attention away from Jesus because there is just TOO MUCH. Too much social media, too much wine, too much impatience, too much need for control, too much sloth, too much worry, too much yelling, too much eating, too much apathy, on and on.
What if, instead of selecting ONE thing to give up, every day I pray for one area to decrease?
What if I put sticky notes on my doors and my mirrors reminding me that I need to ask where God is calling me to limit, eliminate, lay down? Last year, for example, I did better with not losing my patience and hollering at the kids, but I certainly didn’t succeed every day.
But one day. Well that feels very manageable. Plus, I have SO many areas to choose from where God needs my sacrifice (sigh, all these years of faith and still so far to go). This season can teach me in more area than one.
How do I go about these days of decrease?
One, I need to wake up earlier. Between COVID and the cancer diagnosis, I have allowed myself to sleep in far later than I have in my adult life. It was just a couple of years ago when I was working out at 5:15 in the morning with my neighbor. Now there are days I’m not out of bed until close to 7. That means rushed mornings with absolutely zero time for listening to God.
Two, once I’m up, the first thing every morning will be time in prayer. Some days it may be shorter than others. But I can read a devotional or a scripture and pray for what God would have me decrease that day.
Maybe I go to Him with my problems instead of my friends. Maybe I don’t open a single social media app. I might need to clean. To exercise. To fast. Who knows? I really don’t. I have no preconceived ideas of what this season will call for.
But I have long been struck by the value of a 40 day period. I’ve written about it and studied it. Coming off of a year of COVID and breast cancer, I can’t think of a better time for a 40 day rebirth.
Our church put this meditation on the screen this morning: During the season of Lent, the church travels with Jesus on the road to the cross. As we prepare to remember our Savior’s betrayal, arrest, suffering, and death, we reflect on what things in our lives we may need to put to death so we can live in the newness of Jesus resurrection and ascension. May the light of Christ shine more deeply into our hearts as we walk this road with him, revealing the darkness within us, and making us new.
Today is Day 1 on the road to Good Friday’s Day 40. It turns out, coming into this season a little belatedly is okay. We still have 40 days to lay down the things that are obstructing our faith. To pick up the things that draw us closer to Him.
It’s not a traditional Lenten “what I’m giving up” resolution. But this is no traditional year. If ever there was a time to deal with dark corners of my life in order to live more filled up with Light, then this is it.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4