On this Ash Wednesday, I have a confession to make about the Lenten season. It has always irked me in a discomforting way, eliciting strong, gut feelings of judgment and eye rolls. Typically, I treat similar forms of worship with the utmost reverence, and I love celebrating Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter. So what is it about the beginning of Lent that doesn’t quite sit well with me?
Image via Pinterest (Maggie Miller - google.com)
Until just recently, I never fully understood the point of giving things up for Lent. I grasped the deeper concepts of temptation, reliance upon God rather than other comforts, and observance of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Still, something about the way we, humans, translated this incredible remembrance into action felt like a pretense, like a veiled excuse to look great in a bikini come spring break after “selflessly” giving up those carbs “for God”. It seemed like a second, somewhat sick, attempt at our failed New Years' resolutions, and my inner Simon Birch erupted, “What does cokes and candy bars have to do with God?”
I always patted myself on the back for trying to build a closer relationship with God during this season by adding things to my life – perhaps a prayer journal or more time in scripture. (I still think these additions can be wonderful ways to observe Lent.) Then, this morning, I read a blog post titled “Fat Tuesday and the peace of God” by Dr. Jim Denison. Reading about "Jesus fasting in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, the Hebrews wandering the wilderness for 40 years, and Noah’s flood for 40 days", I started to reconsider my negative and embarrassingly dismissive attitude towards fasting for Lent. I asked myself, “What do you turn to for comfort and reliance before you turn to God?” “What are you making an idol by placing it above time or relationship with God?” The answer was glaringly obvious – TV.
Much like carbonated drinks and candy bars, I don’t think TV is some great evil in and of itself. In fact, I strongly believe in TV’s immense ability to enrich society by opening our eyes to others’ perspectives and teaching valuable information in an engaging, visual manner. For the majority of my adolescence, I wanted to be a television writer. Nevertheless, I’m currently using TV as a crutch, just as many of you may turn to certain foods or other personal idols. While I’m still hyperconscious to consider my possible self-serving motives for limiting TV intake, I no longer hear that obnoxious inner voice berating the intentions of others. I guess I’ve learned that for some, cokes and candy bars actually do have something to do with God. Who am I to determine the difference?