Last week our pastor brought Ash Wednesday to my attention when he shared a post the RCA linked to Lent Devotions that you can sign up to receive via email during the season. I can’t believe we are entering the Lenten season already. It’s like we JUST celebrated the birth of Christ and now it’s time to remember His death and resurrection, and we can’t even try to blame it on Hallmark for bringing out their displays too soon either! Immediately after realizing what the date was and when Ash Wednesday was my mind turned to dread and panic because for the past two years I began taking a Lenten fast and I was running out of time to indulge.
It shouldn’t surprise me that the Reformed church is where I landed as an adult with having grown up in an evangelical Christian home with Lutheran family roots on one side and Catholic on the other. My sister and I went to Lutheran VBS and then made Rosaries with my grandparents while watching General Hospital during our summers as children, who else does that even happen to? Surprisingly I grew up with quite a bit of animosity toward the Catholic Church. I think I resented that my cousins had that connection with my grandparents that we didn’t. Our uncles became their ninos because they did this, that, and whatever in “The Church” and my grandparents became godparents to everyone else “because of the church” . Oh “the church”. How I despised you. Even in my High School years I made fun of catholic rules and rituals and once got kicked out of my friends CCD class for telling the father that they were idolaters. It was bad, I was a brat and yet here I am fasting?
So feeling the way I did about “that church” you can probably imagine what it was like for me when we started attending a reformed church and they were observing communion on a weekly basis(like that church), referencing and reciting creeds and catechisms(like that church), and then having an Ash Wednesday service where people were “taking the ashy schmear” on their foreheads(LIKE THAT CHURCH)! I did take my family and run once, I’m not gonna lie it freaked me out! But I’m glad that we came back because had we not, we would have never had the opportunity to experience the greater purpose and meaning of those “rituals” and what they can mean to the “non Catholic” Christian should they decide to observe them.
Most of my online Christian friends immediately get flustered and remind me “you don’t have to do that, you aren’t even Catholic“. Then there’s the ” okay Ms holier than thou, super saved, Oh so you’re Catholic now?” comments that dig at me and I have to decide, every year, how I am going to even try to explain this to people who, like younger Shann, just don’t understand. And it’s simple.
It’s all about Jesus.
Someone today said “you’re the bomb for doing this” and I was so happy with the opportunity to say that I’m not the bomb one by a long shot! I choose to take a Lenten fast because Jesus is the bomb! That I don’t do this for me or for my praise but to honor Him for what he’s done for me! I choose this time not just to take the schmear and swear to not indulge for 40 days because it’s the “religious thing to do and I am religious and so I have to do this for my religion“. But I choose to do this because on a very irrelevant scale of comparison, my sacrificing something that I enjoy, that’s an important part of my life and the difficulty I am going to have and the frustration I am going to experience by giving it up is going to be the focal point of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and the suffering He had to endure so that I wouldn’t have to. The feelings of frustration I am going to have during that time of deprivation will in turn, bring me back to Him, to rely on Him to get me through this. Bring me to repentance for having NOT relied on Him in the first place and just be a great one on one time that truth be told, the rest of the year I don’t take. And what better time than the days leading up to Easter then to observe this, no matter what anyone else makes of it or thinks of it.
So what could it possibly be that is so important in my life that I should choose to remove it sacrificially? The first year I chose it, people laughed it off as no big deal suggesting it was ridiculous for me to even fast from it. Until the second year came and they were inspired to give it a shot themselves so they could call my bluff about how difficult it is, only to realize just how sacrificial it really was. This will be my third year Facebook Fasting, or “Fastbooking” I like to call it . It’s no joke! I am very much a contributor on social media and I am also a cake decorator on the weekends, so most of my connections with people and clients are through Facebook. But I need to disconnect. Cut the cord. Regroup, repent, remember who I live for and who I serve. And I can’t successfully do that with a phone or ipad in my face.
Observing Lent for me is so much more meaningful than not eating meat on Fridays or being thankful for dollar filet o’something like fish sandwiches pretty much everywhere. It’s a heart condition. Not one caused by eating too many dollar filet o’squish sandwiches either. It’s my way of honoring the Lord by setting down something of this world that takes time away from my time spent with Him. I don’t speak of it to boast or brag either. I speak of it because it not only brings forth accountability (because you KNOW your non Christian friends are just WAITING for you to slip up and catch you doing that thing you say you are fasting from)but it has caused my brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether it’s something they would ever do for reasons they had never even considered because of the religious stigma attached to it. Many have, many have tried, and many still think I’m nuts for even doing it. But if it brings people to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater appreciation for what He did for them by choosing to fast that’s a beautiful thing. Maybe this just isn’t your thing and that is totally okay! We know that there is nothing we have to do to earn anything from God, because Jesus already did it all, He paid the price, it is all about Him.
But I am going to ask”the big question” anyway….
Do you observe the Lenten season? If you don’t, would you ever consider it? Are there things in your life that you know for a fact you would absolutely never be able to function without(not including food, water or air of course) if you put them aside for 40 days? Can you imagine what your life would be like if you actually did put that something aside for 40 days of reflecting, repenting and spending that time devoted to Jesus instead? Can I just challenge you to at least just consider the thought this year, if nothing more? Can I also just tell you that it is an amazing experience, especially once you actually get through the hardest part of breaking the habit of doing whatever it is you’re giving up, darn it that’s the hardest part.. Be encouraged.