Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Lenten Lesson

I’ve been contemplating my experience with giving up desserts for Lent this year. While I did avoid desserts technically, I also found that I am really good at making excuses for exceptions. Pop Tarts were justified even in the evening because they are a breakfast choice, a piece of candy was allowable because I wouldn’t normally eat it as a dessert, and banana bread... obviously is bread... not dessert.

This season taught me that I easily make excuses as to why I don’t live the best life God desires for me. It’s sad really. Jesus Christ gave His life for me and I want to make excuses as to why I won’t keep a commitment I made out of my own free will.

More often than not, I did choose to turn down desserts in the days leading up to Easter. I passed on cake and other delicacies while avoiding the binge foods I find myself craving all too often. Most of the time, I made the conscious choice that I was giving up these choice foods for a greater reason. I was reminded to rely on and lean on God to give me the strength to say “no” to something I seem to lack the willpower to do on my own. And in those moments I justified eating a bowl of cereal in place of a dessert, I have learned about myself and the areas I need to change.

Giving up something for Lent is a matter of personal choice. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t anything in the Bible that dictates this practice. That, in and of itself, left me finding wiggle room in my choices that allowed my conscience to temporarily justify and make exceptions. Overall, I learned that all too often desserts (as well as so many other things) are helping me escape and avoid the unnecessary all the while helping me to escape and avoid my true desire for God as well.

My friend, Lisa, posted about her experience with giving up the computer for Lent. Here’s what she had to say: “I have found that I use it, like people use TV, shopping, or working out...to ESCAPE! Reading posts, viewing photos, surfing through etsy, and my own writing allows me to leave the chaos of life behind for awhile. However, I think at times I was also using technology to AVOID. There is quite a difference between those two words, escape and avoid. We all need to escape once in a while, but not avoid what might surround us in our day to day lives. Whether it was screaming kids, laundry, dinner, a looming doctors visit, a workout, or other unpleasant chores, I could put them on hold, if only for a little while. But my need to escape or avoid, whichever way you look at it, was only causing bigger problems, no time to get those necessary things done.”

She said it perfectly. I escape and avoid everything in life with anything possible… including food. Every time I found myself desiring some delectable dessert, I was faced with the question as to what my real desire was. Rarely, am I truly desiring dessert. I’ve simply created a habit that seems to temporarily allow me to escape… or avoid. Lent has opened my eyes further to the fact that I need to seek God in those moments I find myself reaching for food, flipping on the television or turning to the computer.

I need to utilize these negative responses as positive triggers… to turn my eyes on Jesus. My understanding behind the purpose of Lent is to prepare our hearts and minds for reflection on what Christ did for us. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are something we should constantly be living in light of. Therefore, the season of Lent should spur us on to change, not just during the days leading up to Easter, but rather, as inspiration for how we live life each day.

“And [Jesus] said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’ – Luke 9:22-25

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