BY RELEVANT LIFE March 08, 2011

We have arrived at Lent, a 40-day season that ends the day before Easter. Lent originated
in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for
Easter when Christians sought to purge their lives of anything that
hindered their devotion to Christ. By observing the 40 days of Lent,
the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness
for 40 days. A common practice associated with Lent over the centuries
had been the act of fasting or self-denial.

The most common form of fasting during Lent is fasting from food, of
which there are many variations such as abstaining from meat or
omitting an item or two from your diet that you are accustomed to
eating daily. The idea is that every time you get an appetite for one
of these items items, you are reminded of your fast, which prompts you
to embrace the spiritual significance of the season. In essence, your
hunger pains serve as the Southwest Ding that draws your attention to
Christ.

Some people are more creative with their form of Lenten
self-denial. Giving up television is a common alternative. Some
churches stirred up controversy by deciding to go on a “Carbon Fast,” a
40-day period of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases they produce
in an effort to tackle climate change and in living out their call as
“stewards” of the earth. 

One blogger announced she was going on a “Facebook Fast,” 40 days
unplugged from her Internet social networking world. She’s in pretty
good company; Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are urging the faithful
to go on a high-tech fast for Lent. No MP3s, no surfing the Web, no
text messaging—a total Twitter blackout until Easter. 

I wonder what Jesus would think of all our inventive Lenten
practices. One thing I know for sure is that Jesus desires our freedom.
Jesus said his mission was to set captives free, and that knowing the
truth would set us free. I know a lot of Christians who are
knowledgeable, zealous, moral, and disciplined, but who are not free.
There is always some inner malady or life circumstance disturbing their
peace, stealing their happiness, diminishing their worth, disconnecting
them from love, or filling them with fear and anxiety. 

What would it be like to be free? Free from the emotional baggage
that sabotages your life, free from that static anxiety that interferes
with enjoying the moment, free to be yourself, free to be at peace
regardless of your circumstances, and free of all the self-conscious
preoccupations constantly ricocheting around in your head. Jesus never
promised we’d be rich or that our lives would be void of difficulties
and hardships, but he did say we could be free. 

Paul wrote in Galatians, “Christ has set us free to live a free
life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of
slavery on you.” I can think of no better Lenten practice for embracing
the significance of Jesus Christ then to take our stand in freedom.
Sometimes the person who is putting “a harness of slavery on you” is
yourself. Paul admonished in 2 Corinthians to “take every thought
captive to the obedience of Christ.” 

What if our Lenten practice was to deny every thought floating
around in our heads and hearts that compromises the freedom Christ
wants for us? What if we took advantage of the Lent season to give up
every idea we have that opposes freedom and embrace the truth that
offers peace in whatever situation we find ourselves in?

To be “free” would mean you were not affected or restricted by any
condition or circumstance. Freedom in Christ means nothing can affect
or restrict your experience of love, peace, fulfillment, and
contentment because these spiritual qualities emanate from the presence
of Christ within you. In every moment, those spiritual realities are
alive within you and available to you without condition. 

So why don’t we experience these realities? Because we listen to
that voice in our head. What voice? You know; that voice in your head
that is constantly telling you that you lack something. You know the
one? It’s the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, smart
enough, attractive enough, gifted enough, cool enough, creative enough,
disciplined enough, spiritual enough, or competent enough. The voice
also tells you that if you were somewhere else, with someone else,
doing something else you’d be happier. 

The voice gets you striving after possessions, money, beauty,
success, status, power, recognition, or a special relationship. It
promises as a result that you will feel better about yourself, feel
complete and loved and worthy, and be happy. What the voice doesn’t
bother telling you is that it’s a bottomless hole you are trying to
fill. As long as that voice is running your life, you will never be at
peace or fulfilled except for those fleeting moments when you briefly
obtain what you wanted before realizing it’s not enough, and you need
and crave more. 

Why not develop a new pattern in your life during the season of
Lent? For the remainder of Lent, deny that voice in your head. You
could give up food or Facebook, but why not give up your addiction to
that voice instead. How? You can’t stop the voice from speaking, but
you can stop yourself from listening. 

Let’s break it down into slow motion. As we’ve learned in March
Madness, the outcome of a game is often determined in just a few
seconds. So think of it this way―five seconds left in the game:

00:05 – The voice in your head speaks, “You’d be happier if…”

00:04 – You acknowledge the voice, “Oh, it’s you voice. Playing that game again, huh?”

00:03 – Turn to the truth, “I have all things in Christ.”

00:02 – Personalize it, “I already have the love, or worth, or
peace, or contentment I desire right now through the Christ life inside
me.”

00:01 – Let it sink in; embrace it, feel it, absorb it.

00:00 – Standing in freedom!

This article is adapted from one that originally appeared on relevantmagazine.com.

RELEVANT