Lent: skipping dessert or gaining God?


"We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5: 20b-21, NIV 2010)

 By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

Any Oklahoma farmer will tell you that spring does not start with bursting seeds and buds. Their germination is the result of spring. Spring starts when earth readjusts its position to the sun. The potential of fields and gardens would be planted in vain without the yearly adjustment of the earth in the heavens.

Likewise, our human personalities are planted with hidden possibilities. And when we come into the right adjustment with the Source of light and life—God—those fertile possibilities grow into reality.

It is not by accident that the Christian season of Lent is observed each spring. Derived from the Old English word lencten, Lent literally means spring. Thus Lent can be described as springtime for our souls, to readjust our lives with God.

With God’s help, use these 40 days (March 9—April 24) to look deep within yourself and into the depths of God.

The model of Jesus

I know that, for some people, Lent is simply abstaining from dessert or lengthening a 15-second prayer to 30 seconds—brief moments of discipline. As we enter this high holy season, let us observe Lent like our Lord did!

The Master in the wilderness refused the most basic necessity of physical life—bread. Why? Because he was keen about the quest—the adventure of God.

Let us follow his example this season. We may find ourselves giving up that which weighs heaviest upon us, letting go of that which truly holds us back. When we abandon the artificiality we so often invest in Lent, our own quest for God springs into action.

For me, Lent is a season of spiritual adventure! Here is what I propose in this season for your own great adventure into the depths of God’s being

  • One of the most vital things you can do is to examine yourself daily. Reflect on who you are, what you are, and what direction you are going. Develop the desire to expose your inner self to honest scrutiny in the cleansing light of God’s presence. Recognize those faults and feelings that keep you from a more meaningful relationship with God. Identify the sources of pain and frustration that prevent you from abundant life in Christ. And when you discover what needs to be changed or transformed, for Christ’s sake, do something about it!
  • Also, seek the adventure of honest self-denial. Practice giving up something of real value to you so that you may gain discipline for your life. Remember that Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves." Are you willing to give up all rights to yourself, with no thought of reward? Concentrate these few weeks on worthy self-denial. It may teach much about the way to grow in God.

From darkness to light

Few people are familiar with the inner darkness and personal struggles of George Frederick Handel, who composed "Messiah," one of the most famous classical music works. Its "Hallelujah Chorus" segment is often performed at Christmas.

The year was 1741. Handel walked the back streets of London, thinking of past triumphs, yet despairing of his future. Misfortune, ill health, and bankruptcy dogged him at age 60. His audiences had dwindled. A cerebral hemorrhage had partially paralyzed him. As he looked deeply within himself, he acknowledged the darkness that had overtaken his soul.

Then the miraculous happened! Returning to his apartment, he found a package from Charles Jennens, asking Handel to write a sacred oratorio. The dramatic lyrics, filled with verses from Isaiah about the promised messiah, challenged Handel’s discouraged heart.

With lightning speed and divine inspiration he wrote music for: "He was despised and rejected of men…Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." For endless hours Handel wrote, often jumping from his chair to play a passage on his harpsichord. "Hallelujah!" he would shout, as tears rolled down his cheeks. When "Messiah" was complete, an exhausted Handel fell on his bed and slept for 17 hours.

Handel rediscovered meaning and purpose for his life in his darkest hour, and his words have brought light and hope to millions.

A miracle awaits you at the end of these 40 days. Embrace this Lenten adventure of moving from the darkness of sin into God’s marvelous light—and thus to the miracle of rediscovering God’s love for you. This sacred season celebrates the victory of spirit over matter, life over death, of God’s creative and renewing love over the worst that human hate and blindness can do.

You will grow to realize that Lent doesn’t begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Easter. It begins when Christ enters your heart—and continues every day.

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