As a child growing up in the Baptist, E.V. Free and Presbyterian traditions, I do not recall our family ever observing Lent. When Jay and I married and joined a Presbyterian church body, Lent continued to go fairly unnoticed until a couple of weeks before Easter when we certainly were inclined to meditate on the events leading up to Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Resurrection Sunday.
For the past couple of years we have attended a wonderful and truly refreshing PCA church here in Dallas. I could go on and on about the ways our family has been blessed by being a part of this body, but that is a post for another time. While this particular congregation does not collectively observe Lent, a number of our dear friends within the church do, and over these last two years I have watched them as they choose to give up a particular indulgence during the forty days leading up to Easter as a way to focus more on Christ, his sufferings, and ultimately their faith in and walk with him. Until this year though, I have never felt compelled to join the ranks of those “giving up something” for the season of Lent.
But the fact is, that for a host of reasons, I have felt more keenly aware of my own sins and shortcomings in recent months. This is not to say that I have become more sinful than before; perhaps I have, but that is not my point. I have truly felt more of a struggle with my sin, and a sense of frustration as I battle against it than I have felt in a long time. Mostly, I accept this as a positive thing, for if we are not finding ourselves battling sin then perhaps we are either ignoring it, or becoming complacent or even hardened to it. Yet the outworking of struggling against our sin can be exhausting!
Our family is experiencing a set of somewhat challenging circumstances on several fronts. Though I might choose to end these trials in favor of an easier time, these challenges are certainly pushing and prodding us to learn and grow in new ways, and to become more sanctified than we might otherwise. So I am ultimately thankful for the opportunity to know more of Christ and what it means to serve Him, whatever my circumstances in this life. We are learning firsthand that no growth occurs without a good deal of hardship and some pain along the way.
Which brings me to Lent. In the midst of this hardship, I would like another reminder to continue to cling to Christ: to trust his kindness, his love for me, and his promise to help me travel through whatever paths he has planned for my good and his glory. Toward this end, I would like to turn away from an area in my own life which has plagued me since I was a young child, more and less depending on my circumstances. And so…I am going to try to give up biting my nails for Lent.
It might sound silly; most people I know give up chocolate or alcohol, or even Facebook (!) in an attempt to indulge less in the pleasures of this world, and focus more on Christ. But there is no glaring area of my life where I habitually ignore Christ’s call to trust him more than in the pathetic and ugly act of continually biting my nails. It is for me a sinful reaction to the stresses and pressure of life, and an area which, due to more stresses than I can remember in a long time, I have absolutely just given up trying to tame in any way recently.
Some people when they are stressed, go eat a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream, others turn to their god of alcohol to numb the pain of life, still others spend money they do not have in an effort to escape from the cares of their present situation. When things get tough for me, I choose to destroy my poor little fingers!! And while it doesn’t make me fat, or create heart or liver disease, or financial debt I cannot repay, I can safely state that it is a poor stewarding of the body of I’ve been given, and therefore not in keeping with behavior fitting one who calls themselves a Christian. Additionally, it is an outward manifestation of a refusal to give certain hardships and stresses over to Christ who has promised to help me carry whatever burdens I encounter in this life.
So…for the next forty days I am making a commitment to try my very best, with an abundance of help and grace from God above, to turn away from my nasty habit, and turn instead toward Christ. If, in every instance where I went to nibble on a nail, I instead stopped, took a moment to pray and meditate on the things of Christ, and fixed my eyes upon him instead of my worries, how could it not help me to love him more, and worry less about my circumstances? My prayer is that he might use this simple act of faith from a struggling sinner to strengthen my frailty and glorify himself more in me.
If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear about why you are doing it, and what you are choosing to abstain from or give up. Maybe we can be of help and encouragement to each other these next forty days. And regardless of your personal position or beliefs about Lent, “May we all continue to fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…..so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.