I look forward to Lent. How is that possible? Lent is six and a half weeks of examining my darker side, a time of self-denial and of focus on the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
I wish Lent would hurry and get here, because I am sick and tired of indulging myself, literally. I crave chocolate, French toast filled with cream cheese, and garlic bread out of the oven with crusty outsides and soft, buttery insides. I know enjoying these things is not wrong, but after I’ve swallowed the last morsel, I feel bad inside and out. Sugar feeds inflammation, feeds fat, robs energy and defeats my spirit with lack of self control. Why not quit consuming it now? Why wait until Lent?
I am empowered in Lent, because I self-sacrifice for someone else. During Lent, I give up something like sugar to tell Jesus that He is more important to me than moments of pleasures from food. I give it up to build self-control, which will render me more useful to Him. I give it up, because when I give in to temptation, the failure to keep my intention sends me to the foot of the cross. My weakness humbles me to the point of receiving the grace of Jesus. It reawakens His love, which I already know but which has grown dull. It seems impossible to grow callous to such a rich and unending love, but I do. To my shame, I do,
Still, am I deep-down using Lent as an excuse simply for self-improvement? Does this kind of Lent-keeping steal focus away from Jesus and spotlight myself after all? I remember writing about this dilemma in Running to the Empty Tomb. Here is Day 3:
Do you find yourself giving up an activity for an additional reason? Did you give up sweets to lose weight? Did you take on a something new, because you want to improve your reputation?
If your Lenten intention secretly fulfills two purposes, use your two-sided choice as a catalyst to discuss the non-Lenten issue with the Lord. Shouldn’t He be a part of this room in your life also?
Be honest with Him. He knows you inside and out as only your Creator can, and He loves you in spite of yourself. You will not make Him love you less. Rather, He welcomes You into His arms.
The recognition of a double motive is a reminder that we need a Savior. When we catch ourselves in the act of betrayal, we feel more deeply the harm of our sin to us and others, but when we turn back to God, the more fully we experience the sweetness of forgiveness.
Commit the other half of your intention to His glory and end up with a win/win.
Psalm 44:21 Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26, less than two weeks away. If you’re looking for a devotional guide for Lent, check out Running to the Empty Tomb, and if you’re really hungering after God, consider the accompanying Bible Study.
If you want to hear more about what Lent is and if you should practice it, see Is Lent Biblical.
Running to the Empty Tomb Paperback and/or eBook
Running to the Empty Tomb Kindle
A Bible Study for Your Easter Journey: Companion to Running to the Empty Tomb Paperback