I came across this article today and thought that it was worth sharing. It really hit home for me. I mean think about it. If we used Lent to really bring us that much closer to God by using “our Lenten practice as a way to deny every thought floating around in our heads and hearts that compromises the freedom Christ wants for us.”
Wow…read on or head over to the website.
We are in the middle of Lent, a 40-day season that began on February 25 and ends on April 11, which is the day before Easter. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter when Christians sought to purge their lives of anything that hindered their devotion to Christ. By observing the 40 days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for 40 days. A common practice associated with Lent over the centuries had been the act of fasting or self-denial.
The most common form of fasting during Lent is fasting from food, of which there are many variations such as abstaining from meat or omitting an item or two from your diet that you are accustomed to eating daily. The idea is that every time you get an appetite for one of these items items, you are reminded of your fast, which prompts you to embrace the spiritual significance of the season. In essence, your hunger pains serve as the Southwest Ding that draws your attention to Christ.
Some people are more creative with their form of Lenten self-denial. Giving up television is a common alternative. Some churches stirred up controversy by deciding to go on a “Carbon Fast,” a 40-day period of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases they produce in an effort to tackle climate change and in living out their call as “stewards” of the earth.
One blogger announced she was going on a “Facebook Fast,” 40 days unplugged from her Internet social networking world. She’s in pretty good company; Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are urging the faithful to go on a high-tech fast for Lent. No MP3s, no surfing the Web, no text messaging—a total Twitter blackout until Easter.
I wonder what Jesus would think of all our inventive Lenten practices. One thing I know for sure is that Jesus desires our freedom. Jesus said his mission was to set captives free, and that knowing the truth would set us free. I know a lot of Christians who are knowledgeable, zealous, moral, and disciplined, but who are not free. There is always some inner malady or life circumstance disturbing their peace, stealing their happiness, diminishing their worth, disconnecting them from love, or filling them with fear and anxiety.
What would it be like to be free? Free from the emotional baggage that sabotages your life, free from that static anxiety that interferes with enjoying the moment, free to be yourself, free to be at peace regardless of your circumstances, and free of all the self-conscious preoccupations constantly ricocheting around in your head. Jesus never promised we’d be rich or that our lives would be void of difficulties and hardships, but he did say we could be free.
Paul wrote in Galatians, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” I can think of no better Lenten practice for embracing the significance of Jesus Christ then to take our stand in freedom. Sometimes the person who is putting “a harness of slavery on you” is yourself. Paul admonished in 2 Corinthians to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
What if our Lenten practice was to deny every thought floating around in our heads and hearts that compromises the freedom Christ wants for us? What if we took advantage of the Lent season to give up every idea we have that opposes freedom and embrace the truth that offers peace in whatever situation we find ourselves in?
To be “free” would mean you were not affected or restricted by any condition or circumstance. Freedom in Christ means nothing can affect or restrict your experience of love, peace, fulfillment, and contentment because these spiritual qualities emanate from the presence of Christ within you. In every moment, those spiritual realities are alive within you and available to you without condition.
So why don’t we experience these realities? Because we listen to that voice in our head. What voice? You know; that voice in your head that is constantly telling you that you lack something. You know the one? It’s the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, gifted enough, cool enough, creative enough, disciplined enough, spiritual enough, or competent enough. The voice also tells you that if you were somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else you’d be happier.
The voice gets you striving after possessions, money, beauty, success, status, power, recognition, or a special relationship. It promises as a result that you will feel better about yourself, feel complete and loved and worthy, and be happy. What the voice doesn’t bother telling you is that it’s a bottomless hole you are trying to fill. As long as that voice is running your life, you will never be at peace or fulfilled except for those fleeting moments when you briefly obtain what you wanted before realizing it’s not enough, and you need and crave more.
Why not develop a new pattern in your life during the season of Lent? For the remainder of Lent, deny that voice in your head. You could give up food or Facebook, but why not give up your addiction to that voice instead. How? You can’t stop the voice from speaking, but you can stop yourself from listening.
Let’s break it down into slow motion. As we’ve learned in March Madness, the outcome of a game is often determined in just a few seconds. So think of it this way―five seconds left in the game:
00:05 – The voice in your head speaks, “You’d be happier if…”
00:04 – You acknowledge the voice, “Oh, it’s you voice. Playing that game again, huh?”
00:03 – Turn to the truth, “I have all things in Christ.”
00:02 – Personalize it, “I already have the love, or worth, or peace, or contentment I desire right now through the Christ life inside me.”
00:01 – Let it sink in; embrace it, feel it, absorb it.
00:00 – Standing in freedom!
Jim Palmer is the author of Divine Nobodies and Wide Open Spaces. You can find him at divinenobodies.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.