Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why I Decided To Observe Lent This Year

I didn't grow up Catholic or Anglican or Methodist. I didn't even know what Lent was until I moved to China.

So, why? Why did I decide to fast for Lent this year? Well, it actually goes back to last year.

At this time last year, we were mourning the loss of a little boy from our school family. He died from a tragic accident. And with that terrible tragedy, came this new sense of realness in the death of Christ. I didn't need to be reminded how awful it was for a Father to lose a Son. How incredible the loss of a friend could be. It was fresh and real and happening in front of me in real life. It wasn't hard to make the connection.

I remember feeling so broken on that Good Friday. I couldn't really separate the two deaths. I don't even know if that makes sense. Or maybe it does and it sounds terribly insensitive. I don't know, it was grief and I was experiencing it both for the present loss of the little boy and the past Loss of my Savior. Both were being mourned. I had never felt my need for a savior more than I did that weekend. Never understood the loss and sacrifice better than I did over that Friday and Saturday.

But then Easter morning came. And it was probably the first time that I even felt an inkling of what those women who, after watching Jesus die on that cross, felt when they came to an empty tomb and heard the angels say "He is not here. He is risen!" What joy! What relief!

What a contrast. To feel the pain and hurt in the loss of this little boy. But to know that battle has been fought and won. To know that my Savior has risen. That death is not the end!

Death is not the end. Death is not the end. Those words have never meant more than they did last Easter.

So, as this year rolled around, I decided I needed more. I didn't want to enter into this precious day without preparation, without ...something more. I didn't want just another Easter, another reason to dress up, a themed church service, a delicious family meal.

I wanted to be reminded of the sacrifice that was made for us. What could I give up? What was something that in giving it up would be a constant reminder of what Christ did for me?

I think often when we think of fasting, we think of abstaining from food. All food. And there's a place for that. But I decided to be a little less extreme. Giving up things that would be plausible to do for six weeks but difficult all at the same time.

I actually decided to fast two-fold, something physical that would be difficult to let go of and something time consuming that would give me additional time to spend in the Word.

I'm embarrassed to even confess what I've been fasting from because it's so lame in comparison.

Caffeine and Facebook. That's what I gave up. No coffee, no tea, no soda (at least the caffeinated stuff), no chocolate. And no FB. The first being the the physical reminder, the second allowing for more time.

I had a friend ask me the other day what I've learned from this. I wasn't really able to answer him. I've thought about it a lot since then. And here's what I've come up with.
  • I've been more aware of my sins over the last six weeks. My heart has been turned inward, examining every motive and action. I have been more convicted of my wrong-doing during this time than maybe ever before.
  • Even though every get-together that my community (which has been at least 15 different parties, dinners, or "let's go get a coffee"s) has revolves around either coffee, tea or chocolate, this part was way too easy. It was barely a sacrifice.
  • Giving up Facebook has been more difficult. Not because it's Facebook but because it's my only link to my friends and most of my family back in America. I haven't been in contact with any of them (except for mom and dad) for 6 weeks and I feel totally disconnected. That's for sure been the hardest. 
  • Doing this did help keep me mindful of what Christ did for me. Not in a in-your-face-sort-of-way that I was hoping for but more like a gentle reminder- "Oh yah, I can't drink that cup of coffee with my friends because I'm not doing that...oh, because I gave it up... *insert prayer of thankfulness here*".

Nothing super profound. I don't even know that I feel satisfied. I could've used my time better, spent more time reflecting and praying. And I'm not sure that I chose the right things to abstain from. The caffeine thing wasn't hard enough and the FB thing, even though it accomplished it's goal of giving me more time, was detrimental in relationships and morale which is not the goal of Lent. If I decide to fast for Lent again next year, I will change what I abstain from and how I do it. 

Regardless, I'm glad that I did it. So very glad. Because even this lame attempt that I made was still better than the alternative. I am changed. I have different perspective than I did six weeks ago. I have been more mindful of Jesus, my relationship to him and others, what He has done, what I need to do.

I am walking into Easter with a heart better ready to celebrate the King of King and Lord of Lords.