The Gift

“What are you giving up for Lent?” I overheard several chatting and saw some online conversations about this as the Easter season began several weeks (or several decades?) ago.

The answers would vary. Some would go to the stand-by sacrifices of favorite foods or beverages. Others were planning to fast from social media. And some (like me) were going to ignore it altogether.

I did not grow up in a liturgical church that followed the church calendar. Lent was something reserved for Catholics or Lutherans and, according to my upbringing, was not something Baptist folks observed (though we did often eat fish on Friday). Lent, I later learned in seminary, has long been observed as part of the Christian calendar. My observance of Lent became listening to the second part of Handel’s Messiah to remind me of the Easter season.

There are some healthy things about Lent we would do well to pay attention to, and, whether we like it or not, we have been participating in a rigorous Lenten season.

If we see God as Sovereign over all He has created, then that leaves little room for coincidence and luck. Things happen for a reason; some we understand and some are above our pay grade. My belief is it is not coincidence that the coronavirus crisis began in America at almost the same time Lent began.

As the coronavirus began to take hold in America, we immediately began losing things. We experienced having things taken from us that were precious to us as Americans: our freedom to travel around as we wanted, our access to stores that actually had what we wanted on the shelves, our ability to gather together in worship.

The list can go on. Now I said these things were “taken” from us. But let me suggest something to you. Things cannot be taken from you if you willingly surrender them.

Ok don’t click off yet. “What are you giving up for Lent?” Well, I am giving up my ability to come and go as I please. I am giving up my right to have answers. I am giving up my freedom and joy of assembling with my church family for worship. I am giving up access to restaurants, and coffee shops, and social gatherings, and face-to-face conversations with friends.

What if we started to approach this whole thing differently? Instead of griping and grousing about what we are having “taken away” from us, what if we simply said, “It’s Lent. I’m giving these up in remembrance of the One Who gave everything up for me?”

Jesus said, “No man can take My life from Me; I give it freely.”

What if we surrendered these things joyfully? What if we live in imitation of the One Who “though He was equal with God, did not consider (the rights) of that equality something to be grasped?” What would it mean if we were to say, “Lord whatever you want to do with me through these things I’m surrendering, then I give them as a gift?”

And as this mentality takes hold in us, we allow it to guide us as we approach Holy Week; the week where we remember Christ’s passion, Christ’s willingness to die for our sins, Christ’s willingness to die alone on a cross. Let the things we are surrendering draw us closer to Him in His dying, so we can also be drawn closer to His resurrection. What if we willingly sacrificed these conveniences and the blessings we have known (and often taken for granted) as a gift to Jesus?

What are you giving up for Lent?

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