In early February a conversation with my friend went something like this…
Friend: If you want to contact me, please either call or text me. I’m going to be off facebook for awhile.
Me: Noooooo!!! Why? Facebook is how I keep up with you!
Friend: I’m giving it up for Lent.
Me: Ha Ha! You’re kidding right? (We’ve never participated in Lent before. Is that how you phrase it? Participate? Practice? I really don’t know much about Lent. I think it is giving up something special to meditate on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for not only the sins of the whole world, but also for MINE. The “40 days” part comes from Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days before he began His ministry. Lent is practiced by many different religions for the 40 days prior to Easter.)
Friend: No. For the next 40 days when I’m tempted to look at facebook, I want to focus on the sacrifice Jesus made for me instead. I want to prepare my heart for Easter.
Me: (Sobered) Wow. That is very commendable. But why facebook? Can’t you give up something else? After all, this will affect me too. (I’m being painfully honest here, just in case you thought I was a nice person.)
This is when she said something pretty profound that I don’t think I will ever forget.
Friend: A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it is not a sacrifice.
Bam! That hit me right between the eyes! She sure gave me lots of food for thought. As I mulled over what she was doing and why, I decided that it was a very good thing. And just because I had never done it, didn’t mean I could never do it.
So I started thinking about what I “wanted” to give up. Then I started thinking about what I “should” give up. They were different, of course. Right away, I knew what I needed to give up, but I didn’t know if I could. So I’m ashamed to say it, but I thought, Well, if I cave in and can’t hold out for the whole 40 days, it’s no biggie. I’ve never done it before, so anything is better than nothing.
I realize that isn’t a good attitude, but that’s what it was. When I made the decision to do without this “special something,” (I’ll let you drive yourself crazy wondering what it might be. :)) I planned how to make it relatively easy for myself. Do you know that almost immediately I was tempted from outside sources which were totally out of my control?!!!!
It became much harder than I had anticipated, BUT, when I considered giving in, I thought, Really Gaye? After what your Saviour did for you…the injustice, the beating, the mockery, the spitting in His face, the crown of thorns, the piercing in his side, the nails driven in his hands and feet, my filthy sin He bore just for me although He was perfect and holy, the loneliness He endured, and the most horrific…the separation from His loving Father because God couldn’t look on all that sin! (Isaiah 53) And you can’t go without_________? That is pathetic! Do you really love __________ more than Jesus?
So I’m on Day 36 without my “special something”. Am I proud of myself? NO! I’m ashamed how important my little “special something” ever became to me. I’m embarrassed that I’m so comfortable and complacent. I’m ashamed that I am 51 years old and have never considered doing this before. I am humbled that my Lord was willing and did give up everything for me, knowing that I would be like I am right now. But God commended (showed, proved) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
One of my favorite hymns is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). I’d like to share the lyrics with you now in case you don’t know this song.
When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most–I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present fall too small:
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen!
Lent has made me look at the Cross in a new light. It has also made me view my Saviour and His great love in a new way. He is worthy of our praise. And anything I will ever “give up” pales in comparison to what He has given for you and me. He gave His all.
Keep looking up,
P.S. I would really appreciate comments to give me insight about Lent and its meaning!