Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why I'm Not Giving Anything Up For Lent This Year

My husband is a fantastic leader, impressive bible scholar, and an extremely motivational small group leader.  This year, he challenged our small groups to consider giving up something for Lent.  I have to admit, I have struggled and searched my soul for what it is that I need to remove from my life for the next 40 days, so that I can be the compliant little pastors wife and fellow team player in the life group.  Now, as I sit here on Ash Wednesday, having drawn a complete blank as to what to sacrifice, I have reached the decision to . . . .



I know!  Right?  It's hard. . . leading people, challenging people to observe certain religious rituals, and then being a total hypocrite!  I struggle with that. . . really!

Disclaimer Alert:

Now, please don't hear something that I am NOT saying here.  I am not opposed to sacrificial giving or personal deprivation during Lent.  In fact, I have observed Lent in this way in the past and it was very enlightening and personally fulfilling to me.  On several occasions, it has actually facilitated me carving out negative bad habits from my life permanently.  Also, the premise behind this observation is to reflect on Christ's sacrifice for us, and I think that is a very good thing!  So, please hear that I am totally okay with others sacrificing deeply during this time of year.  This year, however, I will not be among you. . .

End of Disclaimer

Several years ago, I spent the greater part of a year learning the ins and outs, ups and downs, and true nature of grace.  It was a hard year.  Seriously.  Those of you that know me, know that I am really black and white in my thinking.  Things are either right or wrong, good or bad, "one" or "two". . . .

Give it a minute. . . that last one will sink in shortly. . .

Since that time, I have really had a transformation in my thinking.  It really isn't about right or wrong, good or bad, or punishment vs. justice.

Sometimes it's simply about grace.

. . . . G  R  A  C  E. . . .

Grace. . . it's a bizarre concept. . .

One of the big things that I learned during, what I fondly refer to as "my year of grace", was that there is nothing that I can do to "earn" favor with God.  In my head, I have always known this.  Growing up Baptist, I was always taught this.  Ephesians 2:8-9 even specifically spells it out for me:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast".  It did, however, take me a full 41+ years to even remotely begin to understand this concept.

So, I have now reached this stage of my life with more than a "head-knowledge" of grace.  I have truly experienced a heart-changing realization of what grace is.  Along with that transformation, came the realization that God The Father desires to lavish on me all kinds of wonderful gifts, blessings, and experiences.  He is a creative and generous God with all kinds of tricks up his sleeve.

 . . . Hmmm. . . Does God wear clothes?. . . Does He even have sleeves?. . .

Sorry. . . ADD moment!

Now, I have always had this weird "feeling" that I will not experience old age.  I'm pretty sure it's just the more paranoid side of my personality--plan for the worst, hope for the best? That being said, I have spent the better part of the last 5 years truly attempting to experience all that this world has to offer.  It is the premise behind our family's philosophy of "route 3". (For those of you not familiar with the Anderson Family verbiage of "route 3", I gave a brief synopsis of that concept in an earlier blog.  You can read that, for reference, here.)

Don't get me wrong, I am a big believer in the value of hard work, perseverance, reliability and accountability.  I don't even come close to living life by "the seat of my pants".  However, I am a huge fan of new experiences in life.

So, with my current view on the concept of grace, my philosophy about "route 3", and my husband's challenge on the observance of Lent, I have reached this conclusion. . .

While I am not going to give up anything for Lent this year, I am going to observe the Lenten season. . . Vanessa-style!

I have resolved to spend the next 40 days seeing, eating, exploring, and experiencing something new in God's creation each and every day.  While the rest of you are spending time "sacrificing" something, I'm going to be spending my time "adding" new things--while simultaneously giving thanks to God Almighty for his vision, creativity, and generosity.  My goal is to "see" the world with child-like eyes--with all the wonder, joy, and magnificence that God intended when He created it.  I want to accept this marvelous gift from God and simply be thankful that the gift was free for me to enjoy.

I am excited about what the next 40 days will bring.  I am giddy with anticipation of what God is going to reveal about this unique world He has placed me in.  I'm pretty sure that He has all sort of hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered and experienced.

We will see how it goes. . . and I am looking forward to sharing some of the more interesting finds with all of you over the next 40 days.

Happy Lenten Season, to all of you!