On Lent, Sacrifice, & Trading

Today marks the first day of my very first Lent.  I’ve been growing in my love for the liturgy and the Church calendar as of late, thanks to the Sacred Ordinary Days tribe and was excited to participate in this season.

 

Because the discipline is new to me, there was some uncertainty with what I should “give up.” Even as a rookie, I know that Lent is about changing dependencies, so I asked myself, “On what am I dependent?”

 

Coffee came to mind initially, but after brief consideration, I acknowledged that Jesus was going to have to do a great deal more sanctifying work in me for that sort of fast to ever be a good idea.

 

From there, I moved on to something a bit weightier – social media.

 

Oh, shoot. 

 

At this suggestion, there was a resistance in my spirit that said, “Maybe coffee wasn’t such a bad idea…” But pressing into this hesitation revealed an area of weakness far more significant than an affinity for caffeine.

 

In the spirit of Lent, a confession: I’ve probably always overly enjoyed social media. As an introvert, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all present an ideal way of engaging others – on my own terms, at my own pace, and  ironically, alone. Social media allows me to craft a persona of who I’d like to be, (read: witty, confident, and well-informed) but don’t always manage to pull off in “real life”. More recently, the loss of a significant relationship has driven me to look to social media for the validation and connection once provided by a person, and I’ve found myself accordingly living and dying by the little red notification flag.

 

I’ve done week-long social media fasts before, and they were HARD!  And while the masochist in me usually enjoys strict disciplines, this, I tried to convince myself, was too much.

 

You’ll never make it.  Why don’t you set a more realistic goal?
Your relationship with social media is FINE! Stop worrying so much and just enjoy it!
You’re going to be really lonely and that’s not safe for you right now.
What about all the devotional/inspirational thoughts you get from Facebook?  Wouldn’t it be bad for you to miss out on those?

 

These thoughts and questions are just a sampling of the internal wrestling I’ve done over the last few days.  I was preemptively discouraged, thinking, maybe THIS is why I never do Lent.  The whole practice to me seemed off, feeling legalistic and oppressive.   So I did what I do when I feel confused or disoriented – I researched.  I tapped into a variety of resources, trying to get to the heart of what Lent really was about.  What I discovered, and hope to continue to discover over the next 46 days, was something wholly other and vastly more beautiful than my original perception.

 

Lent is really about the Gospel.  It is a call to reflect on the less appealing parts of the good news, the part that we often like to gloss over, that is, the painful, sacrificial death of Jesus.  The Lenten season is somber, but at its core is hopeful, for the good news of the Gospel points us to the reality that is created by Christ’s death, the perfection that comes through suffering (Hebrews 5:7-9).

 

The sacrifices of the saints are symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice, this I knew, but just as Jesus’ death was not a test of His will or obedience, neither is our Lenten discipline a burden or a chore.  The acknowledgement that Jesus willingly partnered with the Father to restore the broken relationship between God and man, allows us to see Lent as an invitation. This change in perspective revolutionizes the idea of sacrifice.  Rather than a weight to bear or challenge to meet, it is a relinquishing of the self-made obstacles to knowing Christ deeply.

 

Knowing this doesn’t necessarily make the sacrifice any easier.  But in the paradoxical economy of the Gospel, where losing one’s life results in truly finding it (Matthew 16:25), what looks like loss is actually a win.  The beauty of Lent is found in the nature of our God, who is a God of abundance, not scarcity.  The return on our meager offerings to Him both in Lent and in life are beyond what we can imagine.   Psalm 36:7-9 says, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.”

 

So I’m not so much “giving up” Facebook, as I am trading it for fullness.  In lieu of restlessly scrolling through a feed, I am creating space to be fed by the Word.  Rather than connecting superficially in a virtual context, I am deepening relationships with people that are in real community with me.  Instead of finding my identity and worth in ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’, I am rooting myself in what the Gospel says about me, that I am beloved and valued.

 

Will it be hard?  Probably.  Will it be worth it?  Definitely.
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