Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Lenten Dare

I dare you to give up more than chocolate for Lent. I dare you to do more than the symbolic gestures. Release something really big, like the urge to control everything, or independence from God and each other. Let's see what God can do if we give up something huge and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. I dare you.

Will you do it? Will you dare to think outside the box? Will you give up your own selfish desires and allow God to work his way in you? It’s a scary thing... how do we know we can trust him? How do we know we won’t become one of those obnoxious Christians we see running around?

I dare you to take the next forty days and do something constructive. Lent is a time to put aside unhelpful things, a time to assess where we stand in our journey of discipleship, and a time to pick up something that helps us in our walk with God.

I really enjoy backpacking, because it is time spent away from the busyness and stress. Me and nature and God. One thing I quickly learned is that toting a backpack weighing more than 30 pounds or so gets really old, really quick. Sometimes you have to release some of the things you want, like canned peaches or that really large tent, in order to enjoy the journey in the wilderness. I find it enjoyable to plan what I will carry, what I will eat, where I will go. When I get to the starting point of my hike, I am filled with anticipation of a great trip. When I return to my truck, I am filled with satisfaction for having survived in the wilderness, if only for a short time.

Lent is very similar. We get into Lent and realize some of the baggage we’re carrying is useless weight and needs to be discarded. We don’t really need some of the things we’ve long been accustomed to carrying. Lent provides us the opportunity to cut those things out of our lives.

To go back to my backpacking analogy: When I first began, I never carried a water filter. Why bother? I thought. After learning about Giardia and Cryptosporidium, however, I purchased one. I added something to my kit that I hadn’t used before, something that would make my journey better.

Lent offers the same opportunity. As we drop our useless baggage, we then have room to add things that we actually need. Personal spiritual disciplines, for instance.

So, I dare you to do differently this year. Don’t stop with giving up chocolate or carbonated drinks. Don’t stop with giving up a TV program or favorite pastime. I dare you to give up something fundamental to your identity, and allow the Holy Spirit free reign to work within you.

You’ll be pleased with the results.

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