Where to begin?
Yesterday I was trying to figure out "what to do" about Lent. I love Lent. It's really a special time to reflect on God, to think about what Jesus did by going to the cross, and to look forward to the resurrection.
Having grown up in an evangelical/non-denominational upbringing, I never felt *compelled* to give something up for Lent, but as I've gotten older, I see that sometimes it can be good to temporarily abstain from worldly things that have a hold on my thinking or take up too much of my time. Last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent. It was dominating my time, and it wasn't a healthy fascination. I was using it as a means of escape and often to fuel unhealthy curiosity. It was the first place I'd sign in, and it usually preoccupied me throughout the day - through playing Scrabble, leaving notes, browsing pictures, and reading messages - often to the exclusion of reading the Bible.
The whole Facebook fast went really well. I not only succeeded in enduring withdrawal (they should make detox clinics for it), but I also formed a really healthy habit of not signing into my computer at all until I've spent time with God.
So this year, I was debating. Do I give something up? I don't want to get into a meaningless ritual or legalistic pattern here - especially since Jesus never specifically commanded a Lenten sacrifice in the first place. However, I do want to grow closer to God, to be used by him, and to deepen my walk with him.
So I prayed about what I should do.
Boy, did I get ideas!
The first thing I did was read about Lent. I found a link to a Lent calendar online. It gives a famous quote each day as well as something to fast, something to pray, and something to give. Neat idea!
The second idea came from my mom over lunch. She said, "How about you choose one person to pray for each day of Lent and devote that day to interceding for them?" Not only was that a great idea, but I had already been praying for a friend yesterday who sent me an email prayer request that morning.
The last thing that happened was a series of events, so bear with me as I tell the story:
I ran into someone at Bible study last night whom I'd not seen in many years. I knew her back in my "old life," before chronic illness had disabled me, before my life sort of fell apart. It was emotionally quite a challenge for me. I saw in her a symbol of where I want to be in life right now, where I could have been had I not had these very difficult circumstances to cope with.
The topic of the study was "the names of God" and his characteristics, primarily seeing how they are displayed through the psalms. We examined the psalms and found verses that revealed certain aspects of God's character as a way to learn more about him.
The one name of God that struck me the most was El Roi, which means our "God who sees." I thought last night about how God sees everything that happens. So often I'm tempted to feel like God has forgotten about me. He's blessed others, but he's kept me in darkness. Does he really see when people hurt me? Does he see all I've lost? Will he ever make these wrongs right again? El Roi promises me that he does see it all, and he will make wrongs right in his time. I am also promised that he sees me at my worst and loves me anyway. There are no surprises to God. One day he isn't going to suddenly find out my sour attitude about suffering and say, "Well, you're not who I thought you were after all." No, he knows me inside and out, and he still loves me, to the point where he died to save me.
So, as Bible study closed, we were encouraged to meditate on the names of God. I realized that the third thing I could do for Lent was to study God's names, to learn more about his character and his faithfulness. I even own a set of teaching CDs that will help me do just that.
Today, after my time in the Bible, I began poking around on Facebook. And yes, I may have possibly looked for the girl I'd run into the night before. I may have looked at pictures from a couple of people I used to know back then. And I just might possibly have been feeling sorry for myself that I wasn't in those pictures with them living that kind of life. Just maybe.
Finally, after I'd taken in the wedding shots, the special event pictures, and read the profile info, I felt thoroughly discouraged that everyone else's life seemed easier than mine. After I logged out, I decided to check out the quote of the day on the Lent calendar for February 18.
Here it is, from Mother Teresa herself:
“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
I was laughing out loud after I read that! A message of hope and laughter from God right when I needed it most. Then I read the Fast, Pray, Give part:
Fast from self-pity and complaining.
Pray for God’s help in handling something difficult in your life.
Give a kind word to someone who lacks confidence.
What a wonderful way to change my perspective and get my focus back where it should be! So here I am to pass the encouragement along to you. I want to give you a kind word that you are not alone, that God sees what you are going through. The great El Roi will make things right in his good time, and if you are ever tempted to envy the lives of others, remember that he sees, he knows, and he will do right by those who wait on, trust in, and rely upon him.
I think this is going to be a very good Lent.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.