Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent's Do This Thing!

Let's start with a confession:

I have never given up anything for Lent.

There. I said it. I know, I'm a pastor, a professional Christian, and I've never given anything up?! I'll give you a minute to sit down and compose yourself.

Actually, if you really know me, you probably don't find it very shocking at all. You know how many faults and foibles I have, so this confession probably comes as little or no surprise.

I did not grow up in a church tradition that placed much emphasis on Lent, and certainly did not encourage giving things up for it. So it wasn't until I got to seminary that this became a part of my consciousness. And since then, I have approached it with some amount of skepticism. I just wondered if giving up chocolate or caffeine will really draw someone closer to Jesus. And isn't that the ultimate goal, becoming more like Jesus? It always seemed to be more of a form of self-flagellation exercise than a 'how can I follow Jesus more closely through prayer and repentance?' exercise. Self-flagellation for the purpose of abusing oneself I don't see being particularly beneficial to the believer or her relationship with the God who loves her.

The being said, I have decided to finally give up something for Lent. Or maybe I should say somethings, since there are two things. I mean, I have lost time to make up for, so why stop at one. Why am I choosing to do this after so many years of skepticism? Because there are many areas that I can identify in my life that are getting in the way of truly following Jesus and loving others. That being said, I am doing this to improve my ultimate relationship and with those close to me, not simply to abuse myself. Without further ado, here are the two things I am planning on sacrificing for Lent:

Those of you who know me are right now probably thinking, "He'll maybe make it to Thursday afternoon, but I wouldn't bet on it." I have identified this as a problem area for me for many years, but I haven't done anything substantial about it. For the most part, my sarcasm is not harsh or intended for harm, so some would say, "What's the big deal?" The big deal has two parts. First, it can harm. I generally use sarcasm with people that I assume can take it and won't be hurt by it. But people have a great ability to hide their true feelings, and my words can deep down be hurting them, and that is not cool. My words should provide healing and encouragement, not harm. Second, the majority of the time my sarcasm is intended to show people how funny and clever I can be. I don't need the spotlight on me. God has called me to be humble and to shine the spotlight on Him, and if changing how I use my tongue can give Him more glory and honor, then I want to do that.

We discussed this a while back in our weekend services as being spiritual apathy, but I'm approaching it from the angle that most people do: laziness. Exercise has not been a regular part of my repertoire for quite a while now, and it's starting to take a toll in how I look and feel. But this is not just about me. I want to be around for my wife and kids for a long time, and I don't want my selfish desire to sleep in and eat a lot and sit around get in the way of that happening. So I will start exercising. The other things I plan to do is have my desk at work modified. I read a blog post recently by Michael Hyatt about how damaging sitting down is to our bodies. I sit a lot at work. Today I will have a conversation with our facilities manager about the possibility of making a podium that will sit on my desk that I can use the majority of the time so I spend less time sitting. It may also have the side benefit of keeping me from sitting at my desk so much and getting me out of the office.

I thought about adding a third 'S' - smoking - because that's my standard answer to the question, "What are you giving up for Lent?" But then, I guess that would violate the Sarcasm pledge.

What are you giving up for Lent? And more importantly, why? I'd love to hear your comments below.


Scott Russ said...

Hmmmmmmm. I would love a family gathering with no sarcasm if truth be told. A daring lent. The thing about sloth with you in particular is that no matter how slothful you may be at any given time, you would still kick our butts at any attempt at sports. That was the Fitzpatrick paradox I could never understand!

Fitz said...

I have found the most difficult part about the sarcasm vow is discovering how many people operate that way and how difficult it is to not respond in kind. It gives new appreciation for that whole 'holding your tongue' thing...