The season of Lent is always a sacred time for Christians. During this 46 day period leading up to Easter, many of us focus on giving up some of our favorite things. Chocolate, smoking, coffee, and cursing usually top the lists. Some say the pain of giving up of something we treasure will remind us of the pain that Jesus suffered when he died on the cross. As much as I can appreciate the comparison, I don’t think giving up a Snickers bar is equal to dying for all mankind. In fact, many of us go back to those same destructive habits the day after Easter.
I have a great respect for Lent but honestly still find myself struggling at times with embracing all that it offers. I normally start off motivated and excited about what God is going to do for the next 40 days. However, on or near the 15th day, I start to run out ideas for meals that don’t include the foods that I’m avoiding. Honestly, my focus was more on what I’d given up and not on what I’d gained.
In the past, I’ve been able to do the Lenten fast with few problems but this year it’s been especially difficult. Maybe I’ve watched too much political news coverage on TV. One thing I’ve thought about as I’ve watched the seemingly endless stories of lies, blame-shifting and divisiveness is, “Where is the Christian sacrifice?” No one seems to want to humbly sacrifice their needs. The more I’ve thought about it I don’t think it is a coincidence that the great turmoil during the first two months of the new presidential administration is happening during Lent. With rumors of Russian interference, court orders halting the Muslim travel ban and the failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the news focus rightfully has been on the selfish (and spiteful nature) of these policies. Yet many of the political leaders featured in recent news coverage have in the past proudly proclaimed their religious convictions. However, what has really been on display is their religious confusion and hypocrisy. My constant prayer is that more politicians in Washington DC would choose to give up spitefulness and gain selflessness during Lent.
In addition to giving up things that impact me negatively for Lent, I’m also focusing on adding something positive and life-changing. I’ve had a few experiences since Lent started where my Christian faith was challenged. Like it says in Psalm 4:4, I had to “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” Despite what some think, Lent is not just “Catholic.”
As it was intended to be a reminder of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, Lent also is a time dedicated to spiritual renewal and growth. To me, the best thing that we can gain during Lent is a chance to focus less on ourselves and more on building a stronger relationship with God. So even in this time of social isolation, it can become a time of drawing closer to God.
Shewanda Riley is a Fort Worth, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda