It’s the season of Lent. A period of 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter. During Lent, Christians focus on three different things — fasting, prayers of repentance, and giving to the poor. There are two spaces that usually occur during Lent, a space of giving up and a space of filling in. I liken it to road works. There are either boulders or obstacles in the road that we need to remove, get rid of, give up. Or, there are holes in the road that need filling — things that we need to be doing and not neglecting.
This week, let me speak more to the side of giving up or removing things during Lent.
For my wife and I, we decided to give up some things in our diet. It’s known as veganism. Plant-based diet. No animal meat or animal by-product. No dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.). No meat (chicken, steak, fish).
Now, someone said of our decision, “What led you to be vegan? Because it sure wasn’t Jesus!”
To be sure, Jesus didn’t lead us to be vegan and Lent is not to be used as a diet program for Christians. But when we give up comfort, familiarity — especially around food — we create space for God to maybe speak into something that we tend to take for granted.
We read in Philippians 2 (The Message),
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
When we consider what Jesus gave up, to become like us — he gave up heaven. He gave up comfort, familiarity, security or as Eugene Peterson has put it the privileges of deity and he became like us. As my wife and I struggle with the challenges of changing our diet in this way we are learning some incredible lessons. Amongst them, we are learning to slow down. We are learning to examine what we take and put into our bodies. We are learning to cook differently. We are restrained from going to the cupboards and pantry and simply “eating whatever we want.” There is an emptying, a setting aside, of the privileges that we have come to enjoy as American people with our food.
Now, is this some great sacrifice? Can we compare this to Christ? Definitely, no. And the point of Lent isn’t to dramatically suffer as Christ suffered. The point of Lent is to create space. Space for God. Space for Him to speak into our lives. Space for Him to convict us of wrongful living. Space for Him to show us the boulders that are in the way of our relationship with Him.
The words that come with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday usually are,
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn from sin and follow Jesus.
Lent allows us giving up space so that we can turn from those sins, we can remove those boulders that are in the way of our relationship with God.
May you be blessed in the giving up of this Lenten season.