I’m really struggling this Lent with my usual program of “giving up sugar”. It feels not much more than a religious-themed diet such as you might see on the front page of a women’s mag.
Am I doing it really to renew my humble walk with God? Or am I doing it in some sort of Pharisee way, to show myself and others how pious I am?
I don’t want to be pious because that is not following my Lord. Jesus wasn’t pious. He was loving. He loved and obeyed God, and he loved and cared for all those around him.
So should I bother with Lent at all? What does the symbolism of giving up sugar really signify in my attempts to follow my Lord?
If I say I’ve given up sugar for Lent, yet I still live in my comfortable house and swim in my pool and eat the Queensland prawns that I so enjoyed last night, I am a hypocrite, aren’t I?
I’m really just giving up sugar in the same way others give up alcohol in Febfast. And if I’m honest, as a secret way of flattening my mummy tummy.
Am I? I have added another strand to my Lent practice, not to add to piety but to try to humble myself more. I have said no house-hunting, even though I so long for my own home, and no purchases of unnecessary things for myself. This stops me plotting to keep my mind from God. It makes me a little miserable, in that I have no earthly refuge when the line between me and God is quiet. And He is quiet. The still small voice doesn’t come immediately after you say you’re going to start listening.
Also, if I am doing all this, and I am not communicating it, am I failing in my duty to communicate the good news that Jesus has put us right with God? Jesus says when we fast we are not to put on the sackcloth and a miserable face, but to look happy so no-one knows.
He says not to pray in public or be ostentatious with faith. Okay, I find it hard to talk about anyway.
But he also says, be proud of me, your Lord. I am proud to be God’s child, and one of Jesus’ chosen (as I believe we all are, just some don’t know it yet. Maybe they never will, I don’t know how that works) I am so pleased that He kept looking for me when I was lost. But I also find that difficult to talk about.
So when He says anyone who declares me in public, He will declare in heaven, that makes me nervous. How are we to declare him if not by saying our prayers and how he answers them?
It is not enough, I guess, to try my best with God’s help to be kind and loving, and then nervously say to people that I “go to church”. So how do I do declare the Good News without being ostentatious or hypocritical, or sickeningly stammery? I am not being bold for my beloved, because I am scared that people will laugh at me.
Then I read a breathless ad for a book at Koorong, saying “not everyone who thinks they are saved, are saved”. Yikes. They are advertising a fundamentalist style faith, and that is not the way of my faith. I must cling to the fact that I have made the leap of faith to believe and proclaim Jesus as my Lord, and he tells me all I need is to believe and be baptised, and I am saved. That’s a large enough leap, what else do I need to do?
Anyway, I’ve been hanging around the fundamentals too much and sometimes they make me fearful, and then I cling onto my Lenten rituals and then the circle of worry starts again. It is this circle of worry which stops me from being still and listening….
Lord – how do I do this right? Help me to listen and be still.