As a college student I was first introduced to the concept of Lent from a Catholic friend of mine. I remember thinking at the time, well, that's a nice tradition for them. Recently, I was compelled to put some effort into understanding the purpose of Lent.
My very basic understanding is that it is forty days of prayer, repentance, giving to the poor, and self-denial. The goal is to better understand Christ's life as He was headed to His death. I understood the goal and found it a worthy pursuit for those wishing to be closer to their Savior. However, I didn't feel that I needed to partake in this practice. Until this year. I've always thought of the part of self-denial as fasting from food or drink. This year, God had been convicting me that He wanted me to give up something for the forty days of Lent. I kept trying to figure out what he wanted me to fast from. Was it food? Was it water? Was it both? Was it chocolate? I kept coming up blank and I thought maybe I had heard my convictions wrong or maybe I wasn't listening with an open heart. Patrick and I were sitting in a worship service at Maple Avenue Christian Church in Macomb. Pastor Donny was preaching and I honestly don't even remember what the sermon was about.
I do remember that he spoke about Lent and giving up something that "hurts!" Immediately God spoke to me and said, "Facebook!" I said, "Nooooooo!!!!! Not Facebook!" Well, not out loud. I was in church. But that is what I was thinking inside. I tried to deal my way out of it. It didn't work. God clearly said I was to give up Facebook for forty days. I just could not understand why Facebook was so important for me to give up. It didn't make any sense to me.
On Ash Wednesday I began my Facebook "fast." The next day we moved from Macomb to Sugar Grove, Illinois. I was busy and several days went by before I even realized I had not been on Facebook for a while. It wasn't very hard at first and I began to think, this is silly, this isn't helping me learn anything new about Christ. Then, a few more days went by and I began to wonder about my friend that was pregnant and if the baby had been born yet. I only had contact with her through Facebook. Later that night, Patrick was checking his Facebook and commented on something he read. I was dieing to go read our friends status. Little by little, as the forty days went on, I began to realize what it was I was supposed to be learning. I wasn't fasting from a computer networking system. I was fasting from people, from relationships, and from communication with loved ones. It was beyond hard!
When Jesus climbed up on that cross He chose to die and cut off all of those who loved Him. He knew that they would mourn for Him. He knew that He would not see them and that they would lose hope. As He walked towards the cross, during those forty days, He probably began to pull back from others a little, to help them rely on one another instead of on Him. He began to show them their strengths and how to rely on each other.
I can look back over my life and pinpoint the most pivotal moments. The majority of them involve a severing of relationship, either through death or some other form. Jesus faced that in a heart wrenching way as He walked towards His own death. I can't imagine what was worse for Him, the heartbreak or the physical pain. Place them together and I cannot fathom His emotions. Yet, through giving up the ability to be in relationship with my friends and family through Facebook, I was able to catch a glimpse of my Savior's pain.
What would make a man endure such pain? Love! He loved us so much that He gave His life for us. When we read that sentence or hear it quoted in church, we often define "life" as the physical act of breathing. Yes, He gave His body, but He gave LIFE! He gave up the right to take care of His mother, to play with His nieces and nephews, and to laugh with friends. He gave up the right to truly live!
I've been confronted with the question, "would you give up your life in the face of persecution?" My answer was always a resounding yes, until I had children. Now, it's a little harder to answer that question. See, I still had no regards for my own body, but I am pretty darn protective of my children's mother. There is a new meaning to giving up my life and I hesitate slightly now.
And yet, He gave it all, without hesitation. He laid down his everything for me. What indescribable and undeserved love!Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (emphasis mine)