It has been just over a week since Ash Wednesday - since those who practice the tradition of giving up something for Lent have began their sacrifices. Some have been strengthened by this. Some have felt it's stupid and already given up. And some have struggled, wanting to stick with that sacrifice but wondering why they're hurting themselves in this way.
Lent. The season where many Christians give up something. Why do we do this? For me, it's not just a discipline of giving up a simple luxury. It's not about giving up chocolate or soda or sweets. It's about giving up something that takes my attention away from God - and replacing that thing with God.
But what do you do when that Lenten practice actually starts to take over, and pushes you away from God?
For example, say you decided to give up going to the bar with friends for the season, and instead spend that time in prayer. This is a good thing. But then you start to miss that time with your friends. You start to miss the conversation and laughter. You start to miss all of you being there for each other, to pick each other up. You start focusing on that. You start realizing that it isn't the bar scene you miss - it's the pure, God-given friendship. It's the ability to be there for a friend who's hurting. It's the ability to have a friend there for you when you're hurting.
Suddenly, the whole Lenten sacrifice loses it's meaning. You may still be spending time with God, but your heart is heavy.
Today's Lenten sacrifice:
Let go of (or take a break from) your Lenten practice.
I'm not saying to just give up on that practice because it's too difficult. If you swore off chocolate or coffee (God forbid), and it's just hard to let go of because you really really want chocolate or coffee... hang in there. You can do it.
I am saying, if what you've decided to do is pulling you away from God, rather than drawing you closer... pray on it. Give deep consideration to why you chose that practice. And if needed, alter the practice, give it up, or just take a break from it.
Using the example above, maybe it would be better to alter the practice. Instead of "I'm not going to hang out with friends at the bar, and instead will use that time for prayer"... maybe it gets altered to "I'm only going to hang out with friends once a week, and not at the bar." Or even "I will hang out with friends, but at least part of that time will be in prayer with them."
The point is... don't let your Lenten practice interfere with your relationship with God. And don't let it interfere with being able to serve God and serve others (including yourself) in a Godly, loving way.
May the Lord bless you throughout your Lenten journey. May he be the priority in your hearts and minds during this time and always.