By: Brock Bondurant
Lent is not something I’ve practiced a lot since coming to know Christ. Admittedly, my practice of Lent currently doesn’t mirror much of a change in my day-to-day life other than not consuming any coffee or looking at the news—not exactly newsworthy developments. But that’s just it; at some point, most people probably have viewed the season of Lent as nothing more than a glorified rededication of a new year’s resolution at best, or un-purposeful suffering at worst. With that frame of mind, Lent just means ‘giving up’ something that we enjoy. But what if the season of Lent is more about receiving than giving?
We accumulate a lot in our lifetime. Our culture is grounded in consumerism. Buy, buy, buy. Spend, spend, spend. ACQUIRE! USE! GAIN! GROW! BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER! MORE, MORE, MORE!
And this mindset isn’t just reserved for the acquisition of material possessions in our lives. It makes itself apparent in the way we structure our lives and shape our calendars. The thing I should really be fasting from this Lent: committing to things.
I am a bit of a “yes-man.” I’m sure I could point to my pride, my people-pleasing, performing, or desire for control for this tendency to overcommit, but regardless of its cause, its effect in my life and the lives of my family is not what Jesus wants for me. I run on this treadmill—dragging people I love with me—continually notching the setting faster, faster, faster. Sprinting off to all of these commitments, I have reserved no place to receive Christ and the fruit born of his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I have no margin for the Kingdom coming in my life.
Rarely do we stop to understand what living a life of more is doing to us. Hurry, anxiety, worry, stress – all things born of constant accumulation and consumption, overcommitment and overdoing.
Do me a favor. Wherever you’re sitting or standing as you read this, pick up all the items in front of you. Maybe this is your water bottle, phone, wallet, laptop, notebook, leadership book, coffee mug, the fruit or granola bar that’s been staring at you. Got it all in your hands? Great. Now, imagine someone who loves you dearly wants to hand you their most prized possession in all the world to share with you and enjoy. Maybe it’s a family heirloom, or their favorite mug, or even their own child. With your hands full, what do you do?
Well, simple: you begin to unload your arms. You set aside the meaningless objects you hold to make way for the cherished treasure from the hands of the giver. This is the heart of Lent. Lent is more about receiving than about ‘giving up’ something. That’s why on the Church calendar, in the time leading up to Easter each year, we set aside the things that prevent us from more fully receiving the beauty of Easter Sunday. We empty our hands to receive the resurrected Christ in his fullness; the promise of the past and the hope of the future meet in the abundant life offered us today.
I wonder what I might be able to receive if I laid aside the possessions or the prospective commitments I cling to so tightly. I wonder how much more my sweet wife and child would receive of me. A fast from “doing” and “knowing” might be beneficial to enjoy more “being” and “relating,” both for myself and the ones that I love. How much more of the abundant life Jesus promised and fulfilled in Easter could be received if I emptied my hands of the cares of this world and the allure of wealth (Matt 13:22)?
So, this Lent I’m going to spend less time thinking of what to give up, and more moments focused on what I can receive. Whether it’s coffee, the news, or overcommitments, there is plenty in the way of the life that Jesus has on offer. What is it for you?
I pray Easter Sunday finds you with open hands to receive.