Wineskins Archive

January 28, 2014

How God Used Lent to Save me from a Dangerous Place (Mar-Apr 2007)

Filed under: — @ 7:50 pm and

by Molly Ann Cox
March – April, 2007

When I young, Lent sacrifice was commanded. It was thrown at me. It felt like spears. All around me were the smells of pride in the practice of Lent. So, when I was twenty-one, and I came to know my Savior, I left the church family that had so harshly jabbed at me and imprisoned me with Lenten fasts and other traditions. I avoided the Lent-season-focus like a plague.

I had a lot of fear. I feared all religious traditions. I feared the imprisonment of mandated rituals. I reveled in the freedom, outside them and beyond them. I also nurtured a judgmental attitude against those who practiced such seasonal traditions. I was in dangerous territory and I didn’t even realize it.

Here is what I thought . . . and what is true:

Religious actions, performed because we fear rejection from God, or judgment from others, are empty containers-empty because fear and pride fill them up instead of love and faith in an Awesome God. Fear-based faith practices and pride-filled actions that claim faith are empty.

I used this as a reason to allow judgment to grow in my heart.

So, I steered clear of Lent and anyone who spoke about it.

But God has shown me some interesting things about Lent and the “empty container” label I had put on it. I have come to see Lent from a new perspective, and I do not fear it anymore or those who teach its merit. I celebrate when others seek to know Him deeper from learning sacrifice and giving. I know now that I am not in charge of the “how” and the “what” that is used to teach and encourage faith in Jesus. I realize now that Lent is a practice that is meant to teach focus, and it can be useful. It is possible to find His heart in the intention behind the Lent practice. Jesus said that those who seek Him will find Him. For the most part, those who engage in the observation of a season of Lent are seeking Him.

Years have passed, and my faith and love for my Savior has grown. He has taught me so much. He is Magnificent! I am more grateful than ever to be His! I admire faith in action and hearts filled with devotion to Jesus. I can see now that those who wanted to teach me to learn sacrifice and to exercise, in my young faith, toward true submission were not as far off the mark as I once thought.

I know now, that anytime I push through the gravity of this flesh and focus on Christ, as Redeemer and Risen King, I am only acting more and more like a conquering warrior, like my Brother, my Savior, my King.

Those who bound Lent and other traditions on me and other young hearts meant well. They were hard pressed to find a way to encourage us to focus on that which is above (Colossians 3). After all, the world is bent on teaching its focus and the efforts of this world are quite successful.

Lent is a word that is first defined in a general dictionary as “to grant the use of (something) on condition that it or its equivalent will be returned.” When I live a fast unto my Lord, it is to take my focus off ME and place my focus on HIM. You might say that I ‘grant the use of _______(whatever is given up, or given to)____, knowing that I will receive a “return.” I know that I will receive growth, deeper knowledge, encouragement, insight, answers and even wisdom at a level that is beyond measure.

Now, I can honestly say that I am thankful for the binding of ritual Lenten practices on me when I was a child. It has served to teach me that the intention of any exercise of my faith is most important. God wants my heart. When I was young God got my attention by showing me many people struggling to reach for Him and this stayed with me and helped me want to reach for Him too. Now I celebrate in my heart that many people, through practicing a Lenten focus, are reaching through the gravity of this flesh . . . reaching for Him and Him alone.

God can teach each heart that there is no room for pride-filled actions in a Lenten sacrifice . . . in any sacrifice. God is powerful, He is able, and because I know that, I am no longer afraid of the desire of some to practice the ritual of a season of Lent. He’s got it covered and He can use it. He used it to teach me and He has returned me to respect for seasonal liturgical practices. I repent of all judgment cast by my fear-filled heart toward those who practice Lent.

I celebrate that so many are looking toward God and wanting to prepare their heart to celebrate anew the joy of having a Risen Savior! How can that be a bad thing?

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