Monday, February 27, 2012

40 Days

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. I, of course, didn’t attend our service (got to get back to church)- but I so much wish I had. Last Lent, I was in a weird place… so I really didn’t do anything. As part of the Disciples of Christ denomination, we are very “lax”, if you will, and do not necessarily require anything ‘from you’ during this season. Many of us however, do give up something. This isn’t a Biblical mandate, as far as we see it. It’s not a penitence, but more of a sacrifice of self to allow more time to focus on God. Not in the way of sacrifice that many people perceive, but allowing yourself to become more focused during the weeks leading to Easter. It’s not a way of getting in “good with Him”- but learning to sacrifice something small, just as He sacrificed so very much for us. A lot of people do not agree with it. “Jesus gave His life, not sweets or Facebook” they may say, and that is fine too. A lot of people ADD something to their routines during these 40 days instead of giving something up. Perhaps writing a note to 40 people, one each day, thanking them for all they are and do for you. Lifting someone up is a great way to grow closer to our Lord and appreciate all He has given us!

In truth, we should have this mentality every single day of the year. It shouldn’t be something we do for 40 days and forget. But we all do. We get busy with work and worry, family, appointments, bills… that it’s so very easy to lose sight of Him. By recognizing the Lenten season, it’s a little “push”- to be grateful, to be humble, to be thankful. And maybe, just maybe, some of it will stick- more than it has in previous years. Maybe it will allow you to get into a routine and add that into your daily life. Perhaps you will begin a new structured prayer life with God, remember to pray for those you said you would, or focus on praise rather than needs. Maybe it’s a way for God to work in you to change something about yourself. The people who give up Facebook or Twitter? Maybe they spend too much time consumed with everyone else that they neglect their spouse or simply half listen while also gazing at check-ins and status updates. Perhaps you look at someone from your past with envy, browsing through photos of their new home, new car, or children. Do you think there is a way God can work in that life? By living without it for 40 days you show yourself that you DO have restraint. You have more time for conversation and looking around. You may see how very lucky you really are- even if you don’t have what others do or aren’t where you thought you would be in life.

For me…. I am giving up sodas. I’ve gained a lot of weight since being married and the amount of sodas I drink daily has increased significantly in the last several years. Doing the math, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I probably drink a gallon of coke (or more) EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. My teeth are effected, my health. Enough is enough. Throughout Lent, I will be drinking juice, tea, and most of all… WATER. I’m allowing my body to rid itself of the soda, permitting my poor kidneys to take a breather. How do I grow closer to God from this? First of all, I am making a small step to take care of what God gave me. My temple. If I can curb this “addiction”… what will be the next thing I can tackle? Can I begin a good exercise routine? Cook at home instead of eating from a takeout bag? Perhaps I’ll quit smoking…

I do crave sodas. I’m a creature of habit. When I wake up, I want a Coke. When I eat Taco Bell, I want a Mountain Dew. When it’s Sonic’s Happy Hour, I want a Route 44 Vanilla Dr. Pepper. But as silly as it sounds, when I get an intense craving or even a headache from not getting my caffeine… I still my heart and ask God for just a little more will power. I thank him for my overall, good health. When I drive to work, I don’t leave early to get a drink anymore, but instead, take a moment to thank Him for the beautiful day, for waking me up, for all that I have. I have caught myself being more prayerful in recent days and it is absolutely refreshing!

A lot of churches say that you can have whatever you gave up for Lent on Sundays, because “those aren’t included in the 40 days.” I was dead set on not breaking my “streak”… I’d go the entire time, without cheating. But yesterday, I caved. You know what though? I was able to drink two small Cokes in moderation, over a long period of time. At a meal, I could have ordered a soda, but I got tea instead. I’m disappointed in myself- I caved when in a frustrating situation. So we’ll try for this week. I know I can do it.

One thing that got me thinking was this video I saw of Christian group, Selah. Their singer, Amy, gave a powerful testimony of her weight loss struggle and journey with self esteem. I felt myself nodding along and thinking. I realized I needed to quit asking God to help me lose weight or to give me more will power… but maybe, like Amy, ask Him to get me to a healthy place. The body He wants me to have. I believe he will answer me in His timing and that I have to try too. I know He never promised me that it would be easy or pain free. So to show myself and Him that I’m ‘ready’—I’m making a small step.

(The song is absolutely gorgeous by the way. You should watch it. Selah does a great job of covering this Whitney Houston song.)

And I think for me, and His timing, it all starts with Lent. I'll be updating off and on during this important season. A marker for me and maybe a little bit of accountability.

Oh, and I also weighed myself at the start. Let's see if I can get a couple pounds off by cutting out just this one thing!