Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sacrificial love

Yesterday marked the begining of the Lenten season. Growing up in a largely Catholic city, I'm used to people asking "What are you giving up for Lent?" Origionally, the purpose of Lent was to prepare the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — to remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday, and celebrate his ressurection on Easter Sunday. Today, Christians who participate in Lent choose a vice to give up for a the forty days period. People often give up things like candy, excessive shopping, or cold drinks.

The religious tradition I am a part of does not ussually observe Lent. However, as a young girl, ALL of my freinds were Catholic. And since I have always had such a high need for others to like me... I observed it as well (at least during school hours). Over the years I have given things up cold drinks, television, and sweets.

Looking back, I realize now that I turned Lent, a time which is intended to draw us near to God, into being all about me. I chose to give up things for my own benefit, rather than out of my love for God. For example, my freshman year of college I gave up fast food. I would love to say that forty days brought me closer to God- but that was never really my motivation. I was a poor college girl who wanted to save money and shed a few pounds. My senior year of H.S. I gave up television. Again, not out of love for God, but to more time to do homework. What's worse is how much I boasted about my self-sacrafice to others. As much as it pains me to admit it, I took so much pride in giving up something "harder" than my friends. Ugh. I am so annoyed at myself just writing that out!

This year my approach to Lent is different. For one, I resolved to not ask others what they are giving up and to stay quiet when those conversations arise around me to resist the temptation to compare myself to others. Furthermore, I am commited to making Lent about God, not about me. My prayer lately has constantly been from Ezekial 36: Give me a new heart and put a new spirit in me; take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. When I think about what Christ would really call me to give up, I have a funny feeling it wouldn't be chocolate. It probably something more like pride. Or approval. Or success. Or everything...God doesn't so much want my time or my money or my works - He wants me. He wants you.

Blessings to you on your season of Lent. May you find yourself overwhelmed by God's great love for you, and the sacrifice of his son.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16


Richard Beck said...

What I really want to know, given the city you grew up in, is not how you celebrated Ash Wednesday but what happened the day before. Hmmm? :-)

Shannon Williamson said...

Hey now! Mardi Gras is a surprisingly a very family-oriented event (and much less hedonistic than you might think). In fact, Ken Cukrowski, a bible professor, and his family went and celbrated Mardi Gras this year with my preacher from home. Someday you and Jana and the boys should pay Mardi Gras a visit! Then you could go get your ashes at the Cathedral in Jackson Square... hmmmm :-)