Monday, March 28, 2016

Reflections on Lent


A photo I took on a walking trail at work last year.

First of all, I hope you all had a very blessed and peaceful Easter.

Until this year, I have never actually given something up for Lent. For the uninformed (which was myself until this year), Lent is the period of time that lasts 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. My family, while people of strong faith, never really went into all of that traditional, liturgical type of stuff in our worship. But since I've been working at a faith-based non-profit, a lot of my coworkers participate in these types of expressions of faith. I now know a couple of people who participate in Lent and their decision gave me pause. I prayed for a couple of days, asking the Lord if my instinctual desire to give up this one thing was from Him. It turns out that it was, and so I did, although I did start a few days late. I didn't want to share about it until the period of Lent was actually finished since it's supposed to be something between me and the Lord, but now that Lent is over (starting tomorrow), I think it is time to share. So here are my musings on whether my giving up this one thing had a positive impact on my relationship with Christ or not and on myself or not. You can be the judge. 😊

The first question you're probably asking is what did I give up? I'm not one to give up food because if I do that my blood sugar gets so low that my moods are in constant, nasty flux. I wasn't going to subject my poor family to more mood swings than they already tolerate. Plus, I didn't feel God leading in that direction.

So instead I gave up something that I've been contemplating for some time . . . secular music.

Not that I really listen to a lot of secular music, but I do love classic pop and classic rock from the 50s and 60s. And I love musicals, which also fall into the secular music category. So I was giving up something that I do love and listen to regularly. Although I did excuse music in movies and television. I wasn't seeking it out on purpose, but I wasn't being called to give up movies and tv so if a secular song was in there, oh well. Anyway, I noticed a couple of things happening during this period of Lent.

Source


I went through phases.

Like, the beginning of Lent it was exciting to listen to just praise and worship. Sure, I also listened to some pretty awesome 80s Christian music as well, but it was all Christian. And it moved me in a very genuine way and I experienced a couple of encounters with Jesus while listening to certain songs. They moved me in a very real way.

Then, about halfway through Lent, I started getting bored. No Josh Groban. No Bobby Darin. No Michael Buble. No Phantom of the Opera. The best I could so as an alternative was a bit of classical music. So, the worship and praise that I had adored only a few days before now felt a little stale. I experienced an entire day where none of the songs felt genuine. All of them felt utterly and completely fake, and that wasn't something I was expecting. That, my friends, was an interesting little gift from the Evil one to mess with my mind that day.

I was dissatisfied for at least a week, floundering around, giving up music for audio books for a little while. Then one night, I ended up in a long, angry conversation with God. You might even call it a debate. I had a couple of serious frustrations going on, things about myself, fears about the future, frustrations with my family, all sorts of things, and I just let Him have it, and not in the, I'm giving it up to You kind of way but in the, let me sock it to You kind of way. But at least I was communicating and by the end of that conversation God had brought me to a sense of complete and utter peace. He had been wanting me to talk with Him, to share my concerns and fears, and I wasn't doing it.

That night He gave me a verse, one that we all know, but that night was meant for me . . . "Peace, I leave with you My peace, I give you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid." I needed those words right then and there. God knew the timing

God lifted me up and I finished Lent strong.

Now, here are some things I learned about myself and how music affects me.

That day where worship songs didn't feel real was an unusual day for me. That isn't who I am. And when God brought me out of it I found my heart to be softer, malleable, and very susceptible to worship and praise lyrics. Those who know me really well know that I'm not often a crier, but I cried at the drop of a hat. Michael W. Smith's beautiful song Lord, Have Mercy  (below image) fractured me, even in the car on the way to work, floods of tears. He has another song where he talks about the floodgates of heaven opening up and that's exactly how I felt for the final stretch of Lent.

Source . . . MWS, compiled by me

So Easter service, naturally, focused a lot on the identity of Jesus, especially the songs. I don't remember specific song titles now, only the emotions that went with them. We have a new music leader, Billy and his wife, who just moved to Colorado from Texas. And his passion for music really shines in how long our worship can last depending on how glorified he's feeling from Sunday to Sunday. I think it lasted quite a while on Easter, but I couldn't tell you for certain because all I know is that Jesus was in that sanctuary with us. He was standing beside me as I worshiped. He was tangible.

That's what this period of Lent has done for me. In focusing so strongly on music that worships the Lord, He worked a transformation on my heart and on my mind. I was less than perfect during Lent, just as I always am, but He worked that change in me in spite of my own self.

Yes, I listened to some Josh Groban today and the Ladyhawke soundtrack, but I also don't really feel a strong pull towards some of my old favorite standbys. Instead I loved getting in the car for the drive home and listening to praise songs. Lent might be over, but the change in me doesn't have to be.

Isn't that what Lent is all about? It's not about diving right back into something you gave up as soon as Lent is over. Instead, it's about considering what good that giving up has done you, what changes the Lord has worked in your life. It doesn't mean that I won't listen to Michael Buble or Bobby Darin whenever I feel like it. But I also suspect that I'll be spending a lot of time in praise and worship.

How about you? Did you celebrate Lent? What does the Lent season look like for you?

7 comments:

  1. Intriguing!

    I've never given something up for Lent, but I do observe Lent. The churches I grew up in had an extra service every week during Lent, on Wednesday nights, that focused on Christ's journey to the cross. The church we belong to now has "Lenten Family Nights" instead, during which we have a potluck supper, and then Pastor leads us in a devotion based on the Passion history. And for the past couple of years, we've also looked at the different parts of the Passover meal and how they pointed ahead to what Christ would do.

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    1. And I can't remember a single church that I attended where Lent was a part of the time leading up to Easter. Isn't that funny? So Lent is very much new to me, but most of the people I know seem to participate in it by giving something up for the season. I think that's all well and good, but only if you're really going after some sort of a heart change. It's not supposed to be another version of a New Year's resolution where you're hoping to lose 10 pounds over the season of Lent. That's bad motivation.

      I am curious now about how your church does Lent. It would be neat to do a more in depth participation and study on it, I think.

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    2. Our pastor used <a href="http://online.nph.net/p-18652-2016-lent-kit-ironies-of-the-passion-downloadable.aspx</a>this series of readings</a> this year, though he wrote his own sermons instead of using the pre-written ones.

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  2. I'm not sure what to say.

    I didn't feel like what I did give up for Lent made much difference -- but I grew in spiritual ways in other things. :)

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    1. Meh, that's okay. Most people don't know what to say when I write these kind of posts so I'm used to it. I don't necessarily write spiritual reflections posts for responses, but I figure God may bring someone along who needs to read it someday. :)

      You are growing in spiritual ways and that's something that needs to extend beyond Lent. I sometimes fear that people spend too much time focusing on Lent and not enough time on spiritual growth the rest of the year. So I may not give anything up again, but I'm glad I did it this once.

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    2. I do want to answer them, though... and the fact that I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a response for an entire week was frustrating to me. I gave up self-criticism for Lent. It was difficult. I'm so used to criticizing myself. (Me being God's art, and all.) I felt more at peace with myself, overall... but it did not seem a big deal in a way. Next year I ought to commit to something harder. I thought that WOULD be hard, but it wasn't.

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    3. That's pretty good though, right? That giving up self-criticism wasn't as hard as you were anticipating? I, personally, think that's AWESOME. And I think it's something you should just carry forward naturally, as a part of who you are in Christ. My two cents thrown in. ;)

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