I know that Lent isn't something that Southern Baptists generally do. And I'll admit that I haven't studied the history and dug into all that is Lent. However, I have still chosen to participate in Lent the last few years. For me, it's a great way to spend some time focusing on the gift and sacrifice of the cross, as well as prepare to rejoice and celebrate the truth of the resurrection. For me, it's not so much about denying myself, but refocusing and living for more than myself.
This year I decided to drink only water during Lent and donate money to the well project that our church is doing (find out more here: Water for Africa) I am also taking specific time once a day to pray for the persecuted church. I did something similar last year, but this time it has been different. Maybe it's because I'm at a different place in my life, maybe because I have been sick for the last week, I'm not sure, but it's definitely been different this year.
For one thing, I keep finding myself wanting to sneak little sips here and there of other things. I mean, it's just a sip, not a full gulp (or glass), so what's the harm, right? Then, WHAM! God really hit me with the thought that I am the same way about sin. Just a little sin can't hurt, right? I mean, if I live well most of the time, one little sin can't hurt. WRONG! Sin will always be the wrong choice for the believer and no matter how good it feels at the time, it will always bring guilt and shame. Praise the Lord that He offers forgiveness when we make the wrong choice!
Another thing I have found is that sometimes I forgot this fast doesn't include food. I start to eat something then think, "Oh, wait! It's Lent. Oh wait, I'm fasting from all drinks but water, not food! What am I doing?!?!" It's like my brain thinks that means I can't have anything. How crazy is that? But don't we sometimes make our Christian lives about our list of don'ts instead of the freedoms we have in Christ? It's like we think that because there are some things that God has commanded we not do, that it means we can't do anything that might be considered fun to the rest of the world. We build this bubble and keep ourselves in it and don't ever see the joy and life in the freedom of living under Christ.
I think the prayer portion is teaching me the value and importance of persistence in prayer. There are a few things that I feel like I've been praying about forever and I had pretty much just given up praying for them. I had no more words and it seemed I was getting no answers, so why bother. In praying for the persecuted church every day I am finding that God provides the words. He is softening my heart to pray for those persecuting Christians, as well as those they are persecuting. I have been reminded many times of the parable of the widow who continued to go to the judge day after day until he ruled in favor of what she wanted. She knew the judge had the power to do what she was asking and she persisted, day after day, until he used that power. You know what, my God has the power to do all I ask. I can pour out my heart, day after day, even with the same requests, and He will hear every cry. He can heal each heart, wound, ache. He can protect lives and open hearts to His salvation. He is I AM! Oh Father, help me to believe in all You can do, ask You to show Yourself mighty in my life and the lives of others, and still choose to praise and rejoice when You choose not to answer in the way that I hope You will!
I know that Lent isn't in the Bible (of course, neither is Christmas), but over and over His people are commanded to remember Him. Remember what He's done. Draw near to Him, focus on Him, and rejoice in Him. Lent is really helping me do that this year. The Sundays during Lent are feast days. They are days to rest from the self-discipline you've been practicing all week, stop looking at the gravity of the cross, and rejoice in the glory and triumph of the risen Lord. I have found Sundays so much sweeter during this season. They truly have been feasts and celebrations (though not overdone!) Lord, continue to soften and change my heart. Make me one who is bold in Your name. Help me to love all I see with You love.