I am crap at denying myself anything. Pretty much anything I want i get and if i can't get it straight away i keep on wanting it more and more until i do get it. Food is a particulatly great example of this, i am the petrol station snack king, always popping in to buy what i am fancying at any given moment!
That's why this Lent I have decided to give up on alcohol. It is not as challenging as say burgers but it will be something that I will miss and it gives me a chance to start practicing my feeble muscles of self denial!
A good friend of mine scoffs at the idea of Lent - seeing it as new yrs mark II - a chance for a do-over of those broken resolutions where something is given up not as an act of sacrifice but as an act of gain - e.g. i'm not eating chocolate as i hope to lose a few pounds etc. For this reason, my friend avoids all forms of lentern resolutions, as an anti-lent protest (and therefore has given up on giving things up ;).
Are you giving anything up for Lent?
Or maybe you are taking up something instead?
Like my friend at work who has decided to give up being an agnostic for Lent and has decided to try being an atheist, a christian and a muslim for 2 weeks each to find out what life off the fence feels like.
He has clearly thought this through as he says that there is no point in just dabbling his toes in the water, if he follows this through than its full immersion or nothing - now whether 2 weeks is long enough for more than a sheep dip is another question but i admire his commitment to try and orientate his life in each faith as much as possible.
It was not lost on me how i often do the exact opposite and just dip my toes in my christian faith - usually based on what is the least cost/most convenient/least involved/bare minimum for me.
It has made me think of how little evidence of a positive good faith orientation exists in my life. I contrast myself with Muslims who, where possible, gather together 5 times a day to pray. I struggle with praying for 5 minutes per day and gathering once or twice a week with a bunch of christians.
Lent is one opportunity where i can practice my faith more intentionally - in a climate of people giving things up or taking things up I can reflect why I am doing something intentionally and explicitly that might cost or inconvenience me - and not just for my own benefit/gain.
I attended a Lent service tonight and was signed with the cross in oil and ash on my forehead by another person. It reminded me that there is so much of practicing my faith that i can not do alone at my own convenience! It also challenged me to begin to think how else i could identify myself and orientate my life around Jesus?
What do you think we can do, both individually and communally, to more explicity reflect and orientate our lives around Jesus?
Afterall he didn't pull any punches when he said:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
What does intentionally practicing losing our lives look like?