Previous thoughts on Lent can be found here.
Lent gets a bad rap. Lost in the humorously intended groans of, "Ugh, how will I get by without chocolate?", or "Coffee. I'm never going to make it 40 days without caffeine" is an all too often forgotten gem of spiritual growth, discipline, and freedom.
A relatively common question makes the rounds in Christian circles this time of year.
"What are you giving up for Lent?"
Only, in today's culture, the answer may look a bit different than the typical chocolate or coffee response.
Confession time. Lent and I have a hot and cold relationship.
I'm a fan, and yet, the practice of giving up something for Lent has proven to be a struggle at times. Am I expected to choose what to give up? Will God lead me to the answer? I could definitely use a Pre-Lenten period - a time of personal reflection to help discern what it is that actually steals my focus away from God, thus, preparing me for Lent! Too often, though, I've arrived at my "WHAT" (I'm giving up) on the fly - without forethought or preparation. And approaching the Lenten journey so haphazardly has resulted in bit of a Debbie Downer attitude.
"Woe is me. No sugar until Easter. Can't wait until Day 41!"
I've had a revelation this year.
What if Lent isn't first and foremost about giving up?
But, rather, giving?
The first insinuates loss - something being taken or removed. The other? A willingness to hand over. The focus becomes less about what I don't have and more about what another may gain from my offering.
This year, rather than approaching Lent focused on what I must give up, I have chosen to enter my Lenten journey with the question of, "What can I give?"
It's a simple switch of attitude, really. But one that has been very powerful and motivating. And challenging. Especially for a night owl like me.
During Lent, I have decided to give God my morning. The first moments of my day. Perhaps you don't find difficulty in rising early and meeting with the Lord before leaping into your day.I do. In fact, the first thought that enters my mind when my alarm rings in the morning is not, "Good morning, Lord", or "I love my family," but rather, "Where is my coffee?"
I have made several humanly empowered attempts at willing myself into becoming a morning person. All have ended in failure.
This time, however, there was a stronger reason driving me to tackle this area of discipline in my life.
God asked me to meet Him. He requested that time of me. How could I ignore a personal invitation from the One who made made the sun rise so I could enjoy that first cup of coffee?
So, this Lent, I have been rising 30 minutes earlier (almost) every day (there have been a few glitches) and handing that time directly to God: in prayer, scripture reading, and silence.
Sounds great, right? It's been harder than giving up chocolate has every been. At least with chocolate I can control whether it's in my house. With waking, I have no control over the sun rising. Nope, by God's mercy and design it happens every day - whether I'm ready for it or not.
The truth about sacrifice is that it doesn't necessarily feel good. Rising early isn't natural for me. Nor will sacrifice always benefit us. I'm exhausted – for I've not given up my night owl tendencies. And, yet, at its deepest level, sacrifice has nothing to do with me. True sacrifice is giving (fill in the blank) on behalf of another.
In my case, that means giving my beauty sleep to my Maker.
When I look at it that way, I feel no loss – even though, technically, I am losing some shut-eye.
Funny how a change of approach can adjust perspective. In the evening as I turn off the light I now find myself praying to be infused with God's strength to help me rise with eagerness in the morning. I am more aware each morning when the iPhone chimes my wake-up call. I have somewhere to be. An appointment. A commitment. With coffee in hand (yes, I make that cup), I sit in silence, I read His word, and I lift up my friends and family in prayer.
I may be groggy, but I'm enthusiastically groggy.
Lent, I'm giving it up for you. Woot! Woot!