Sometimes don’t you just want to give up? I’m sure you’ve all read about how there’s some percentage of you who’ve given up on a new years resolution by now and how to jump back in. If that’s you, I’ve been there, done that – you’re not alone!
I recently wanted to give up in a challenge with some friends, not necessarily a resolution. My friends do these month-long challenges on a regular basis, and I decided to jump in for the month of January. They select things to give up (pop, sweets, eating out) or things to add in (working out, water intake, bible reading). I decided that pop was going to be one of the things I was going to give up, but when you’re craving that McDonald’s Coke, it’s REAL HARD not to just pull into the drive-thru! I had a really bad headache last night and just wanted to give up and give in.
I was thinking about how I would normally just give in and indulge my body’s desires for an ice cold, bubbly, fountain coke. But I was SO committed to this challenge (aka I’m in the runnings to win… I’m not competitive at all ;)). How often do we turn away from the things that we know aren’t healthy or good for us or goals that we’ve placed in our lives that are JUST in reach? Not just those single coke decisions, but the large-coke-everyday type of decisions? (In reality, I’ve been there, I’ve done that!) We know it’s not good for us, but we continue in a regular indulgence.
As I listened to my favorite podcast the other day, Annie Downs was chatting with the She & He Reads Truth folks about Lent and their upcoming study. In the podcast about Lent and people giving things up for the season, they put an emphasis on the need for self-denial so that we may in our very finite ability, identify with what Christ did for us. They made a statement that there is very little that we deny ourselves. It’s SO true – if I’m hungry, if I’m tired, if I want a new shirt, if I want a new church, I can find all of those things almost instantaneously. I can feed my appetite, and feed my selfishness.
I’ve been thinking and praying about what I want to give up or replace things with this Lent. I normally don’t participate in it, but it’s been really heavy on my heart. The theme that God’s just been hitting me with over and over is the sacrifice to learn to be diligent in turning to Him. More specifically to turn from evil and turn to Him.
As I was reading in Psalm 34 today, I was so convicted reading verses 13-14:
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Charles H. Spurgeon’s Treasury of David expanded upon verse 13 (emphasis in bold added):
Verse 13. Keep thy tongue from evil. Guard with careful diligence that dangerous member, the tongue, lest it utter evil, for that evil will recoil upon thee, and mar the enjoyment of thy life. Men cannot spit forth poison without feeling some of the venom burning their own flesh. And thy lips from speaking guile. Deceit must be very earnestly avoided by the man who desires happiness. A crafty schemer lives like a spy in the enemy’s camp, in constant fear of exposure and execution. Clean and honest conversation, by keeping the conscience at ease, promotes happiness, but lying and wicked talk stuffs our pillow with thorns, and makes life a constant whirl of fear and shame. David had tried the tortuous policy, but he here denounces it, and begs others as they would live long and well to avoid with care the doubtful devices of guile.
There’s so much wisdom and richness in that paragraph out of a very short two verses! I promise you that I did not seek out this specific commentary from Spurgeon that had my word for the season – diligence!
It reminded me of the song “Center My Heart” by Austin Stone Worship that’s been on repeat lately because of the lyrics in one of the verses that I feel speaks to this:
“Turn my eyes away from searching for lesser glory, turn my eyes
Teach my heart with all Your wisdom to live for Heaven, teach my heart.”
The purpose of Lent and the purpose of giving up things for a short period is to turn our eyes away from searching for lesser glory – the things of this Earth. It’s a centering of our lives on His name and for the glory of His name.
I looked into the band and the background of the song, and there’s THEOLOGY they posted on their website about the song! I LOVE THIS!! That the song wasn’t just written because it fit a four-line chorus and five chords, but that it was purposeful. This was the part of their background of the song that hit home with me:
“We cry out, ‘Come God, do it again! Turn my eyes! Tune and teach my heart! Give me a glimpse of Jesus so that I may take up the occupation of heaven here on earth. Center my life on the exalted Jesus, His beauty, His power, so that everything else may find its proper place. Center my life on Your name.'”
I decided that I’m not just giving something up this Lent season, but I’m planning to insert something in exchange for that. My prayer and heart’s cry is that in this process, He will turn my eyes to Him, tune and teach my heart. That my eyes would be open to catch glimpses of Jesus. That my life would re-center on the exalted Jesus… so that everything else may find its proper place in my life – on His name.
Here’s practically what that looks like: I’m going to give up watching TV/Netflix for lent, and spend more time in Bible reading, my study, or reading the many books I have stacked up. I’m also considering waking up at 5:30am every morning (not including Sundays). I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with that extra time, but I’m contemplating starting it with that song “Center My Life” and a workout. We’ll see where I end up with that one!
By not watching TV, the goal is to turn my eyes from distractions and to have the time/availability to see His glory revealed; whether that’s in His word or just in regular life! I probably won’t be replacing every minute of tv watching with reading, but some of it will. Some of it may be meeting up with people, hoping to catch a glimpse of His glory in their lives!
By waking up early and spending time in worship/exercise, I hope that my heart will be centered at the beginning of the day. That He would tune my heart to His, and that everything else in my life would find it’s proper place from there.
Both of these are sacrifices! I’m a big fan of keeping up with the latest shows, and I’m REAL addicted to Heartland on Netflix right now! Gosh, do I love my sleep! I’m one of those people who sets my alarm 8 times and then still hits snooze on half of them, adding another 4 alarms! I want to feel the sacrifice though, in my very finite ability. Pray for me. Haha!
I really am praying that this season is one that I won’t soon forget – the closeness of Him as I pursue a life centered on Christ through a very small season of sacrifice.