“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19 NIV
As we enter this Lenten season, the final word of the sentence is left up to you. Lifestyle bloggers, psychologists and thinkers have been paying a lot of attention to the American lifestyle. There is the claim that we “live to work” instead of “working to live.” For many young adults, it is said that we are members of the most educated, overworked, and under-fulfilled generation that America has ever seen. Whatever this information means to you personally, it is worth noting that is coupled with a decline in church attendance. This is not a cause and effect argument, but more of a call for us to be mindful about where we put our trust and how we live our lives.
Because many of the thoughts above lead us to the development of bad habits—too much social media consumption, bad diets, questionable relationships, hoarding our resources—we often view the sacrificing of Lent as only a time to remove things from our lives. We do this with the best of intentions, but how often have we picked up the same habits or people or things as soon as the forty days have passed? That does not make us bad people, but is just one more evidentiary point of our humanity. Sometimes we just cannot leave things alone—and often that means we have to regroup again next year when Lent arrives.
Maybe this year is our opportunity to reimagine what Lent can be for us. While we might fast from foods or TV or Facebook, we should also consider that our sacrifice to draw closer to God might be intentionally taking on the things we know will lead us into God’s presence. To start, we must take the Lenten call to repentance seriously. We must turn away from those things which separate us from God in order for us to live into the renewal that sacrifice and prayer can bring. It may be a turning away from complaining and a turn towards gratefulness. It may be a turning away from gossip and a turn towards thoughtfulness. It may be a turning away from assumptions and a turn towards listening.
In whatever we do, the glory that God receives is born of our determination to be better and do better with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the days and weeks advance and the sacrifice grows tiring, remember that you are not operating in your strength alone. Repent and be grateful. Repent and be thoughtful. Repent and be.