Lent is a season of self-sacrifice, self-reflection, and surrender. However, this holy season can easily degenerate into meaningless rituals or spiritual obligation. Sure, we may decide to give up something, but it is not anything that will draw us closer to God or help us fulfill our sense of purpose. When we participate in Lent at this level, our “sacrifice” only allows us to say we did Lent.
Others of us may want to make a Lenten sacrifice or commitment, but we don’t know what to do or where to begin. If this is you, then may I suggest that you begin with you. After all, Lent is a time to turn inward, examine ourselves, and see what is hindering us or what we may need to lean into a bit more. We do this not for the sake of doing it. We do it to become better followers of Jesus.
Become better followers of Jesus
I want to pause right here because I don’t want us to start over-spiritualizing this point. Too often, we think following Jesus requires us to focus on the “spiritual” portions of our life. We limit our discipleship to prayer, fasting, worship, tithing, reading scripture, church attendance and offices held. We limit it to particular acts of service or generosity. All these things are good and necessary; however, we limit our discipleship when we do not realize that every act, every thought, every word, every decision reflects our discipleship. To think otherwise is to limit or compartmentalize God; it is putting God in the “holy” or “spiritual” compartments of life. So, this Lent, I am encouraging you to "decompartmentalize the Divine."
Decompartmentalize the Divine™
That’s just a fancy way of saying, “Take God out of the box.” Invite God into the everyday, simple realities of your life. Don’t wait for “God-sized” stuff to pray, seek guidance, or hand over to God. Trust God with the small stuff, the everyday worries and concerns, because the everyday things are what usually keeps us from moving forward. Look at yourself and your life and honestly assess what small part, with the help of God, you need to tackle. Consider how some of the “non-spiritual” stuff is preventing you from being who or doing what God wants.
This Lent, I have given up candies, cakes, and cookies-pretty much any baked sweets. Why? Because it has negative effects on my life. It is a stronghold that keeps me from truly walking in what God has for me and desires of me. When I looked at my life, I saw that it affects my mood and makes me irritable (not Christ-like). It causes me to crash in the afternoons and I am less productive and less prepared to be present to my children when they come from school (thwarting my purpose). Late night snacks make it harder to get up on time in the morning (more likely to miss morning devotions). They put extra pounds on me, which begins a whole spiral of health concerns (not good stewardship of my body), makes me feel self-conscious (less confident in life and ministry), and zaps my energy (leads to sloth). This everyday thing has profound “spiritual” and discipleship consequences. So take a look at you. Do some self-examination and see if there is something(s) that you need to work on this Lent (and beyond).
15 Simple Questions
Below are some questions to ask yourself. They will help you get a better idea of what you might want to change, increase, or decrease. Do not feel obligated to answer to them all or all at once. (You can always return to this blog when needed). Instead, take a moment and read through each of them. What jumps out at you? What questions grab your attention? What question makes you wince? Peaks your attention? Start with these and see where it takes you. Think of Lent as your beginning. Unlike Lent, however, this journey to move forward does not have to end at Easter. Ready?
1. What are the mistakes I continue to make? Why? In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul tells church in Corinth that "we are not ignorant of Satan's devices." Are you? Do you keep falling into the same trap? getting baited by the same temptation? allowing the people to pull the same strings? Perhaps, Lent is your season to stop the cycle. 2. How do I distract myself? Knowing how you distract yourself can make you more aware of when you’re distracting yourself. You can also take steps to avoid your distractions if you identify them. 3. What are my goals for the next quarter? Give yourself 3 months to catch your stride and work your plan. Set your intentions-think about the person you want to be and let your goals flow out of who you are becoming. This will make you more likely to succeed because you are not working against yourself. Once you know your goals, you can effectively plan your day and ensure that you’re making progress. Understand that planning is act of faith. To plan is to believe you will be here to fulfill it. So, if you are planning in faith, trust God to provide what you need to reach the goal. Don’t shrink-wrap it to fit what YOU can do, ask God to show you what you and GOD can do together. Need help? Check out Live Your Year 2020 Quarterly Planner
4. What are my goals for the next 10 years? It is okay to dream. As a matter of fact, let the sky be your limit. It is easier to pare down a dream than it is to unshackle it. Start BIG! Then prayerfully consider whatever adjustments you need to make. Once you know your ten-year goal, think about your life and what you want. To achieve a long-term goal, it’s essential to mold your life around it. (see above*) 5. What do I like about my life? Answering this question makes you think about the good things in your life. It also makes you grateful and allows you to attract more of those good things. 6. What do I dislike about my life? Knowing what you don’t like puts you in a position to consider how to make your life better. 7. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? If time, money, people’s opinions, or current obligations were not an issue-what would you do? Listen to your heart. You’ll learn what it is you really want to do by asking yourself this question. ANSWER it. Once you allow yourself to acknowledge what you want, you can see how to go for it. If you can’t have the whole things, what parts or pieces can you have. 8. What are the common characteristics of the last three people I dated? What is your type? Is that a good type or bad type for you? What do you want to look for in your next partner? 9. What would I change about my job? What do you like and dislike about your job? What can you do to make your job better? Do you need to find a new position? 10. When I was a child, what did I want to do when I grew up? Have you lost sight of what mattered to you when you were younger? Could your earliest plans still be relevant to your life now? 11. What activity or subject makes me lose track of time while I’m doing it? These are the activities you love to do. If you could turn one of these activities into a career, you’d probably enjoy your life more. 12. If I gave myself advice, what would it be? Imagine someone just like yourself with the same life. What would you tell them to do? The real trick is getting yourself to follow this advice! 13. What have I never done, but would love to try? This is a great way to get out of a rut. You eventually regret not trying the things that interested you. 14. What characteristics do I believe I lack, but would love to have? Whom do you admire and why? How would your life be different if you had these same characteristics? 15. What do I worry about? What are the sources of stress and concern in your life? What does this say about your life and yourself? What can you do to reduce the anxiety in your life?
The more you know about yourself, the better you are able to be your BEST self, the YOU God created you to be!