by Guest Blogger Shirley Davis
One of the most impactful things I ever did one Lenten season (in preparation for Easter) was give up holding grudges against my husband. For context: Usually, for Lent, Protestant Christians don’t bother much with giving things up. I had, for many years, not seen the point and chucked the idea altogether. I did, that is, until a good friend challenged me to use the 40 days of Lent as a time to come closer to God less through a sense of obligation and more about willingness and desire for life-change.
A Lenten practice might look like adding something—like praying for someone more regularly or choosing a place to serve those less fortunate. It might also look like relinquishing an attitude or behavior. I had the sense that God wanted me to give up stewing, to give up feeding my frustrations or my resentments, specifically those that were related to my marriage and my husband’s inability to read my mind . Incidentally, he was not doing anything heinous—it was just garden-variety relationship friction that I chose to continue to hang onto and keep to myself.
I also knew that I would need to replace what I was relinquishing with something healthier—a healthier attitude, better choices, etc. So, I chose to increase my focus on God as my provider…my guide…my strengthener…my help. I decided that every time I was tempted to ruminate over a grudge, I would “take that thought captive” to Christ and stop and pray for my husband instead.
It supposedly takes 30 days to break a habit. Lent gave me 40 days, not including Sundays. This one intentional season, over 20 years ago, truly broke me of that bad habit, replaced it with a better one and helped strengthen my marriage. Not that I never consider stewing anymore, but God reminds me to turn that over to Him sooner and more thoroughly so that it’s no longer my default mode.
I have also noticed the helpfulness of this practice in my coaching and mentoring. New Year’s Resolutions seem so heavy and burdensome—stretching 365 days into the horizon with the potential for failure or discouragement at every turn. The 40 (or 46) days of Lent, however, seems doable in a different sort of way. Shorter. In partnership with God in a very intentional sense. A heightened awareness in a winter season.
Lent and Sacrifices
If Lent is about coming closer to God through some sort of self-sacrifice, then it’s probably more about attitudes than about actions.
Some things to consider “giving up” for Lent:
- harboring anger or resentment toward someone
- complaining about one’s boss
- complaining about one’s roommates
- talking with others about a problem instead of talking with the person with whom you have that problem
- complaining about your family
- computer games
- credit cards
- compulsive shopping
- social media
- certain magazines/catalogs
- television/Netflix/HBO/Hulu—or certain shows/movies—or binge-watching
- eating out
- problem-solving when someone is sharing their heart with you
Replace the thing you are giving up with something healthier:
- a new habit
- take every thought captive
- pray the Psalms
- Lent readings
- quiet times
- Scripture—memorize and remember
- uplifting reading
- books; books on Audible
- time limits
- Post-It Note reminders in key places
- Lent small group
- listening to Scripture
- time in nature
And, pick just ONE thing. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a list of “resolutions.” Consider this a “fast” for your soul—a way to invite God in to do some much-needed renovation and restoration. It helps to find a Scripture to meditate on during your Lenten practice. Several suggestions follow:
Verses for Reflection:
2 Cor. 10:3-5 Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Phil 4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
2 Tim. 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Matthew 4:2-4 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
1 Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Prayerfully begin now to reflect on what God would have you do . . . and who He would have you “be” . . . for your Lenten sacrifice to Him this season.
[Lent this year begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 and ends with Easter Sunday on April 12, 2020.]
Shirley Giles Davis is a coach, consultant, and facilitator specializing in resilience, communication, conflict, transitions/change, leadership, strategic planning, personal style, resource-management, purpose, performance management, sabbath, caregiving, gifts/passion, and Enneagram debriefing.
Shirley is also author of the God. Gifts. You.: Your Unique Calling and Design six-week workbook and the Your Unique Design Class Guide. She has been Director of Equip-Connect-Serve Ministries at a church of 1,200 in Boulder, Colorado since 1999, connecting people with opportunities to serve and places of learning and fellowship. Shirley and her husband, a university professor, have been married since 1982. Contact Shirley.