Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Season of Sacrifice

As we enter this season of Lent the weather matches my attitude.  Rain pours down, the sky is gray.  It's easy to feel that sacrifice is forced.  It's not a big step to feeling as if I'm being intentionally robbed of joy and all that is beautiful.  Rather than approaching Lent as a time of freeing myself to worship God and focus on the gift that I've been given, human nature encourages me to view sacrifice as loss and deprivation.  Perhaps this Lenten season I will finally be able to focus on the sacrificial giving from which I've found eternal benefit rather than on my personal sacrifice. 

In the past, I had decided that rather than depriving myself of something that didn't really give me a connection to God, I'd try to find a way to strengthen my spiritual walk by adding something of direct benefit, time in prayer, an additional Bible study or reading.  In a sense, by doing that I was sacrificing time.  I was making a choice about the best use of my time and sacrificing time spent in pursuit of things that were less godly.  This year, I'm not sure how to proceed.

The 40 days of Lent are commonly related to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism.  Jesus gave no thought for himself in the journey.  No plans for food, comfort, or good reading material.  Jesus was driven to seek God.  Jesus' quest was successful enough to draw the attention of the entire Universe.  Even Satan tried to distract Jesus from his purpose and because Jesus was successful in his quest we all may benefit.  I can not even begin to understand such perserverance and passion.

Even in Lent, I rarely have pure reasons for most of my spiritual actions.  My spiritual life, on most days, has more to do with me and less to do with God.  I am too comfortable and content to understand what being driven into the wilderness means.  Honestly, I'm fairly certain that I don't aspire to that kind of passion.  The wilderness sounds frightening and uncomfortable.  It sounds like it would demand sacrifice.  I'm just fine with praying for God's will when I'm warm, dry and well fed.

I suppose the questions I'm struggling with are these: How do I participate in a season of sacrifice without actually being required to sacrifice something?  Does sacrifice have to come with pain or can it come with joy?  Is destruction and surrender an requirement?  What would be required of me if I were truly listening to God?  Would I be willing?

Again, sadly, it's all come down to me again.  Perhaps, during this Lent, I'll find a place where there is less of me and more of God.

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