The Lenten season is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. During the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday we are invited to reflect on the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness enduring Satan’s temptations and preparing the start of his ministry. Lent gives us an opportunity to draw closer to God and grown in our faith as part of our own spiritual journey.
John 3:30 says: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.” This statement was made by John the Baptist to one of his own disciples as an effort to explain who Jesus was and John’s role within Jesus’ ministry. John understood that Jesus had come and His purpose was clear to him; this disciple needed a little more education and that’s what John meant when he offered that ‘he must increase’. During Lent, many of us choose to give up something that tempts us. We do this as a way of growing in our anticipation of the coming Easter celebration.
Growing up in the United Methodist Church, the act of Lenten sacrifice has long been a part of my own faith journey. There are seasons where I find I am intentional in my repentance, fasting, and preparation. Because I am human, there are also seasons where I fall ever so short. As a youth and young adult, I was quick to make the ‘traditional’ sacrifices during Lent: giving up chocolate/sweets, soda, swearing, etc. I chose the things that I knew I could give up; but they really weren’t the things that I thought I couldn’t live without.
In my mid-twenties, I had a mentor invite me to try something different during Lent one year. Rather than give up chocolate for yet another 40 days, he challenged me to prayerfully consider what I might add to my daily routine that could help me grow closer to God. I’ll admit, at first, this seemed HARD. How could I possibly take on more?!? Of course, as I reflected on this challenge, I began to realize that this might in fact be exactly what I needed at this point in my journey. I decided to take my mentor’s challenge and chose to add a morning time of intentional scripture reading and prayer.
An interesting thing happened that year. I remember that I didn’t find myself justifying that chocolate chip cookies on Sunday were ok (FYI – Sunday’s during Lent aren’t included in the 40 days; each Sunday is intended to its own mini-Easter celebration as our anticipation builds). Instead, worship on Sunday became more of a time of celebration; it was an extension of the reading and prayer I had taken on that year. My Lenten sacrifice was some of my time; time I had to carve out at the beginning of each day to read and to pray. What a blessing it has become though – a daily reminder that I must decrease so that God can increase!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to model what a life lived with you looks like. Thank you for your Grace; the Grace that placed Jesus on the cross in place of me and washed me clean! Give me the strength today to find the areas in my life where I must decrease to that you can increase. Amen.