Now that I understand the beauty and importance of the Lenten season, I love it. It is one of my favorite times of the year, and I think it's an important discipline for all followers of Jesus to observe. I'm convinced self-denial is extremely important to practice, but not because God demands it, requires it, or expects it. It's important because we need it. We need to learn to be content without certain things. We need to learn to be amazed by God's provision. We need to learn to be patient and trusting.
That's why I'm giving up for Lent this year. You read that right. I am giving up. I'm quitting. I'm retiring. I am sacrificing my own plans and desires for Lent. I know God provides, and now I am going to live like I know it.
Seems like a cop-out thing to give up, right? That's ok, I'm giving up some other things too, but I don't want to tell you about them. The point is trust. The most important weapon in the arsenal of a Jesus follower is unyielding trust in God for His mercies and provisions. Like any weapon, sometimes you need to do some maintenance on your truster. You need to keep it sharp, keep it clean, and make sure you can use it when it hits the fan.
Stress is the antithesis of trust, so practically this looks like eliminating stress from my life completely. How I do that is personal to me, but it involves a lot of reflection and meditation. Being mindful of my stress-level is going to be key for this exercise, but I think it's possible because the God who gives endlessly and erternally is in my corner. I have an unfair advantage over stress and He is gracious and kind.
One of the hardest verses in the New Testament is when Jesus tells His follwers to "Give no thought to tomorrow..." Don't worry about what you're going to eat, drink, or wear. Give zero thought to it. Our human nature is to be always aware of things that threaten our comfort level. We are animals who look to remain fed, clothed, and sheltered and will go into survival-mode if any of those are threatened. Jesus' teachings are completely opposed to this aspect of our nature. If it was easy, there'd be no fun in trying it.
Unlike most Lenten practices, I don't plan on getting stressed again after Easter. I see this as 40 days of hard work that will bear fruits for the rest of my life. Forty days surrendering to the One who is in control of the whole thing anyway. Giving up for Lent.