I’ll fess up- I have been a complete slacker this Lent. I had great ambitions to fully engage in World Vision’s Relentless Act:s of sacrifice campaign. And I did for the first two out of six weeks. Then life got kind of hectic- between a trip down south to visit friends and donors in Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA and then back up to Cleveland, coming home to head to Morgantown WV and then preaching at church Sunday morning…..well, I’m sure you have your list too.
Lent is supposed to be a time to sacrifice something in life to help you refocus attention on God. Rather than thinking about the next cup of coffee, piece of chocolate, or meal out abstaining from those things is meant to serve as a reminder that only God can fill our hearts. Throughout the relentless act:s of sacrifice campaign I found myself feeling annoyed- “what the heck- I actually have to create something? I have to come up with something new and different each week to remind me to sacrifice on behalf of others? To remember the poor? That just feels like a lot of work.” As much as I’d like to write that I created some cool artwork, served in some amazing way in my community or watched a documentary about clean water, when it comes down to it taking a nap or watching The Muppets usually wins out.
Thankfully a relationship with Jesus isn’t dependent upon what I can sacrifice for him. The sacrifices of lent are meant to draw us towards Jesus as we prepare to mourn his unjust death on the cross and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. If sacrifice were what God desired, I would be straight up screwed. I hate fasting, have good intentions to care for the poor, think about how it would be good to spend some time praying or reading my Bible. And sometimes I actually do these things. But more often, I don’t. One of my favorite passages of scripture is from 1 Samuel 15:22 “to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” The prophet Samuel delivers this punch to King Saul after he tries to weasel his way into justifying why he didn’t actually obey the Lord’s instructions he had been given. I think I like it so much because I can relate to weaseling my way into justifying why I do or don’t do certain things God calls and commands me to do- like care for the poor. When Jesus invites me to obey him far too many of my prayers begin with “but Lord, I…..” weasel city.
I can never sacrifice enough for Jesus- there is simply no way that my self-centered, narcissistic self that looks out for me & mine can ever repay Jesus for choosing to enter my life to restore my relationship with God through his death & resurrection. I may not be able to offer consistent sacrifice this lent, but I can seek to listen for his voice throughout the day. To obey when he’s encouraging me to be present to my son, to spend time with him even if I’d rather check Facebook, to care for the body he’s given me and be mindful of how easily my heart is pulled to find vice after vice after vice. And to look to him for help, freedom and contentment. Hopefully as I listen for his voice, I will become more obedient. And sacrifice won’t seem so difficult. It will just feel like a normal life with Jesus as I learn to care more about what and who he cares for.