Sunday, March 2, 2014
Growing up, I thought only Catholics did it, nothing against Catholics, that is just what I thought. I was well into my adult years when I found out not just Catholics participate in Lent. That was about the first time I also saw someone with ashes on their forehead. I almost told the lady she had something on her forehead..... glad I didn't.
I have come to better understand what Lent is about, but I really don't think it is for me. I think it can be a good thing to give up some things for a period of time, whether it is for forty days or some other amount of days. Depending on what it is, it can do us some good, or a lot of good. And I am not knocking anyone who participates in Lent... I just can't imagine God being impressed. "Hey God, I am giving this up for forty days, but at the end of forty days, I am going right back to it." Can it be good for us? Yes. Can it teach us self discipline and control? Definitely. But still not sure it will impress God.
I was thinking about denying oneself last week, and was even thinking about blogging about it, and as I thought, I got to thinking it is something I need to do more of. I love to eat, so food immediately came to my mind. If I want to eat something, I do. I don't consider myself a glutton, but I definitely snack too much. I decided right there and then, last Friday evening, that I was going to start exercising more constraint with my diet. I need to lose some weight anyway.
Saturday morning, I got up and headed to work. As I approached Rochester, PA, where I currently work on Saturdays and Sundays, I got a tremendous urge for donuts. There is a Sheetz I drive by that is two blocks from where I work, and they sell Crispy Creme Donuts......I know this because I have stopped and bought them before. The closer I got, the more I wanted one, but I remembered my new resolve and decided I was not giving in. I proudly drove past the Sheetz, looking somewhat longingly, turned onto Virginia Ave, drove two blocks, turned around, and parked across from the building I work in. Started to put my car into park, when the donut urge hit me again....
I about hang my head in shame as I type this, but I pulled back onto the street and drove down to Sheetz. I went in and got a chocolate milk, then I opened the donut case and put a glazed donut into a bag. Eyed the bavarian-filled and thought "oh well, I already gave in, I may as well get that one too", and I did.
I was a bit ashamed of myself afterwards. So much for my new resolve...... but man did it taste good!
Later that day, I played some cornhole, and as I was on my way home, I got to thinking how good a chocolate chip frappe would taste. But the donut failure was fresh on my mind, so I drove past McDonalds and came home. I felt proud of myself for saying "no" that time.
And no, I am not in any way suggesting that I sinned or did anything wrong by having those two donuts. Nor would I have done so if I had bought the frappe. I am saying I need to practice more restraint in everything and not give myself everything I want. And it is something I, and all Christians need to practice more.
Jesus said to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. Denial has almost become a dirty word to Christians. We don't like to deny ourselves much of anything. We feel we have the freedom to do anything, no rules, no restrictions..... and yes, some churches do have too many rules, yet we can't just live the way we want to. Being a Christian should cost us something. We should be denying ourselves daily, not just during Lent, but every day of the year.
If you're single, you should be denying yourself sex
There are movies you should deny yourself of viewing
Places you should deny yourself of going
Things you should deny yourself of buying
Music you should deny yourself of listening to
Clothing you should deny yourself of wearing
Words you should deny yourself of saying
Ways of spending time you should deny yourself of
That isn't an exhaustive list. We have gotten the idea that its all about us. I want to dress that way, and no one is going to tell me otherwise. I want to buy that, and I deserve it. I work hard for my money. God really wouldn't expect me to go without that, I deserve to be happy. I want to eat that.
One of the main pillars of the pro-gay Christian movement, is that it isn't fair if someone is attracted to the same sex for them not to have someone to love and be with. It isn't fair for them to have to be celibate.
We scoff at that, yet many Christians do the same thing. We reason around Scripture, or even what we know is best, and do something because we feel we deserve happiness. Just like the pro-gay Christians, we don't feel we should deny ourselves certain things. Even when given reasons why something might not be a good for us, we fight against reason and insist on having what we want.
I'm guilty. Having to go through bankruptcy will change your spending habits, but I still get pretty much what I want. It is hard to make out a wish list for Christmas and my birthday, because if I need it or want it, I usually buy it. Within reason. There are things I'd like to have but either can't afford them, or feel it isn't a wise investment of my money.
But on the other hand, just by being a Christian and serving God, there are things I have to deny myself. And it isn't easy. Believe me, it isn't easy. I wish it were different, but this is me.
Modern Christianity has become a cushy religion whose followers believe we are supposed to be happy and comfortable..... but Jesus said to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. Carrying a cross isn't comfortable, and we aren't always going to have it easy carrying one, and we will have to deny ourselves daily.
We scoff at the "health and wealth" preachers, but it seems we all believe that way on some level. No, the Christian life isn't a life of misery and unhappiness, but neither is it always sunshine and roses. We can't have everything we want. We can't do everything we want.
This isn't a commentary to condemn Lent or those who participate in it. It isn't a bad thing. And I am sure it helps with self discipline, and depending on what is given up, could help draw one closer to God, but if it does that much good, why stop at 40 days? And I say that with a smile, not criticism.
It would do us all good to prayerfully consider our lives and pray about truly denying ourselves. It isn't all about things we do, see, buy, wear, and how we spend our time, but those would be a good place to start. Just as giving into a donut and denying myself a frappe didn't do anything for me spiritually, not all things are going to affect our walk with God, but there are a lot of things which can. And some things we need to deny ourselves all of the time, while others may be a temporary thing. The temporary is a good way to practice self discipline and restraint.
Denial isn't a dirty word. It is part of serving Christ. Dying to ourselves, and denying ourselves daily.