So let me be real, straight-off the bat. While I participate in Lent each year, I haven’t fully invested every time. There have been times I’ve gone through the motions. Lent isn’t just giving something up, or doing without something in the days that lead up to Easter. I’ve done that. Most years, I’ve given up something food-related. Soda, sweet tea (Oh man, let me tell you: this southern girl has sweet tea flowing through her veins. That wasn’t an easy Lenten season!), all drinks other than water. But that’s not the whole picture. There’s another component: the one I haven’t always been faithful to. Lent is about reflection, introspection. It’s about examining yourself. It’s about repentance and preparing yourself for Easter. I haven’t always been diligent about that part.
Introspection isn’t easy for any of us, I don’t think, but as a self-proclaimed perfectionist and a closet control-freak (I guess that cat is out of the bag), introspection can be especially difficult. I don’t always find it easy to admit that I’ve been wrong about something or that I haven’t lived up to my self-imposed expectations. It’s hard to admit that I’ve failed or have been found deficient. But if I don’t do that, if I don’t search myself, if I don’t ask God to search me, can I have true and full repentance? How can I be sorry for something and determine to change my actions if I’m not fully willing to examine those actions and motives in the first place? There are several verses in the Bible that point us to the need for self-reflection. Lamentations 3:40 tells us, “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.” In order to receive forgiveness from Christ, we have to confess our sins. We can’t do that without examining ourselves.
So, Lent is more than just giving up soda for a couple of weeks. Like many other celebrations in the Church, there’s deeper meaning. While we do fast by giving up something we hold dear, we must also reflect on ourselves and repent, preparing our hearts for our risen Lord.
There’s a beautiful song written by Brooke Ligertwood called “Lead Me to the Cross.” It’s been covered by Hillsong, Francesca Battistelli, Chris and Conrad, and a whole bunch of others, so you’re bound to find a version that appeals to you. The lyrics point straight to the heart of the matter.
“Lead Me to the Cross”
Savior I come,
Quiet my soul, remember
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Oh lead me, lead
me to the cross
His blood was spilled for our ransom. His blood was spilled to forgive us, to wipe away the sin that would cost us our lives. What does it say to Him if we aren’t willing to search ourselves and confess that sin to Him? Lord, rid me of myself. Rid me of the things that pull me away from You. Rid me of the perfectionism and the need to be in control. Rid me of the fear of failure so that I can live freely and boldly.
This Lenten season, don’t just give up soda. Give up yourself. Give up the pride that holds you back from truly seeking Him. Ask Him to rid you of yourself. You belong to Him. Let Him lead you to the cross.
In preparation for Easter, use this introspection to search your heart and confess your sin to the Lord.
Have I made time for daily, undistracted prayer? Have I kept the Lord’s Day holy and attended church services?
Set a daily alarm on your phone called “Remember God.” Let it be a reminder to connect with Him in prayer, even if it’s only for a minute.
Have I sworn, cursed, or offended other people by my words? Have I lost patience and gotten angry with anyone? Have I complained about the people, things, or opportunities in my life?
Often when we are angry, we’ve forgotten to give thanks to God. The struggles in our lives are moments to grow closer to Him and choose to be virtuous, rather than sinful. Each struggle is an opportunity to do God’s will instead of our own. The next time you’re in a stressful situation, try meditating on the last words of St. John Chrysostom: “Glory to God for all things!”
Have I given to the needy people in my life? Have I spent time with my family, giving them my love, respect, and attention? Have I been a good friend, family member, and Christian?
Charity begins at home; don’t neglect family members who need your help and support. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also volunteer your time at a local charity. Salvationarmyusa.org has many opportunities listed under the “Ways You Can Help” tab. Also check out volunteermatch.org to find causes you care about near you.
Is there anyone I feel hatred toward? Am I holding any grudges or being unwilling to forgive others and myself? Have I judged anyone, or thought of myself as better than anyone?
Light a candle and pray for your enemies. Let Christ’s transformative light change your heart. Forgiveness does not always come immediately; continue to pray for those who have wronged you and for Christ to allow you to forgive.
Captain Jamie Satterlee | Associate Divisional Youth Secretary | Southern Territory