Over the past few days, I have been thinking about what to give up for Lent. I knew I didn't want to give up something that had no spiritual significance for me, just to check off the "fasted for Lent" box on my Good Christian card. Nor did I want to sacrifice something that was merely outward. I could give up chocolate or stay off Facebook (well... maybe), but for me, that would be more about fasting for appearance. And I seem to recall that Jesus had something to say about that.
No, I knew that God was asking for something else from me... something beyond the surface, something heart-deep. And so I began to look beneath the outward actions and instead considered what's within. What attitudes do I hold that are holding me back from living like Christ? Every day there are desires within that pull me away from where my heart and focus should be. I have my pet sins that are so familiar they are almost
like muscle memory-- I do them automatically, it seems, without even
thinking. And if I'm being really honest, sometimes I
don't want to let go of these things because they are comfortable or
even enjoyable. But they are not reflective of Christ.
At our Ash Wednesday service, our pastor's words reminded me that God desires a full commitment from me every day. Or as another pastor I follow on Twitter (Eugene Cho) put it, God is saying, "I didn't ask you to give up coffee or candy. I asked you to surrender your life."
One of the readings at church was from Joel 2:13, which says, "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."
I think that is one of the most thrilling things about God. He sees all the ways I fall short, the attitudes and desires I harbor, and the pet sins. He knows it all, and it ain't pretty. But he is not angry. He is gracious and compassionate. His love, mercy, and forgiveness draw me in and compel me to follow. As the final hymn tonight said, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." I am not being called to sacrifice something on a surface level, I am being called to give my heart. All of it, even the messy and broken parts. Especially the messy and broken parts.
So I am beginning Lent with a desire to seek God, to sacrifice whatever keeps me from following him wholeheartedly, and to continue being transformed into someone who reflects the love and grace of Christ.