March 8, 2011

A Cheap Imitation

Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day! Call it what you want, but it's the day before Ash Wednesday - the ushering in of Lent. Lent - not the nasty stuff you find in your belly button after a weekend of camping, but a season of penitence, sacrifice, and self-denial leading up to Easter. If you're a devoted follower of Christ, this 40-day period can be one of the most intimate and devout times of drawing closer to Him, leaning into the Word of God, and finding a refreshment in prayer that you've never known before. But if you're simply religious - if this is just part of what you do because you belong to a certain denomination or group - I want to encourage you to consider something: DON'T BOTHER.

I know, I'm harsh sometimes. But here's the thing: the last thing most people need (particularly in the Western Church) is one more piece to add to the puzzle of religiosity. Yet today - Fat Tuesday - will be for many an opportunity to GORGE and PURGE on something that beginning tomorrow - Ash Wednesday - they will torturously attempt to forgo for what will seem like an eternity. And during those 40 days, will draw no closer to God than they have in years. That's not sacrifice OR self-denial. It's a cheap imitation! The act of sacrificing and denying yourself - FASTING - are meant to be replaced with something else. When you hunger for that food, rather than indulging yourself, you pray. When you REALLY want that coffee and your caffeine headache is about to split your skull, rather than head to head to the prayer closet. Is about moving our dependencies away from things of this world and back to the One who sacrificed it ALL for us on the Cross. Is this your motivation for Lent?

My goal through this post is not to convince you to partake in Lent. But it's also not to dissuade you either. My hope, desire, and prayer is that if you choose to give something up over these next 6 weeks, it will be out of a powerful hunger and unquenchable thirst for more of Jesus Christ. Whatever you give up - lay it down, leave it behind, and walk toward Him. And if you want to take it a step further, don't tell anyone else. That's right. NO ONE! Don't make this about announcing to the rest of the planet, "That's right. I'm giving up chocolate for 40 freaking days! That's how much I love Jesus!" Uh, no. Jesus made it pretty clear that when we fast we're to keep it between us and Him. Wash your face. Don't look like someone shot your dog or sucked the life out of you. Be joyful. Draw near to Him! That's the meaning and purpose of Lent.

Dig Deeper:
Matthew 6:16-18
Isaiah 58


Sidney said...

I appreciate your comments regarding Lent, especially keeping your Lenten commitment just between you and God. I feel sad for people who seem to need to advertise all the good things they do as Christians. It seems like their somehow missing the point of having a relationship with God. Does that make sense?

Brian Mayfield said...

Totally! The more you publicize it, the more you rob yourself of the intimacy it can bring in your walk with Christ. Thanks Sidney!

Wistful Writer said...

Ash Wednesday,as with many "Christian traditions", is rooted in worship of a pagan god. Ash from a fire pit does not comare to the power of the blood of Christ. The act of fasting is a personal and intimate offering.

I enjoy reading your blog...always thought provoking.


sue said...

Thanks Brian, I grew up in a Catholic household, and we were forced to give up something for lent. No one ever explained to us why we sacrificed only that we must do it until Easter. As I have grown and moved out of the Catholic faith, I have learned over the past 20 years or so that the real reason we sacrifice is because of the sacrifice given for us. Thank you for tackling this subject. I may or may not give up something, although I'm sure of what I should give up if I do, because only God can sustain me during those times of withdraw... Thanks again brother.