Less And More
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NRSV)
Self-denial is one of the most familiar spiritual practices of Lent. How often do you hear, “I’m giving up _______ for Lent,” (you can fill in the blank). It’s one of the most familiar, but also one of the most misunderstood spiritual practices of Lent.
Giving up something for Lent is good first step. But if that’s as far as it goes, I think we miss a lot of the point. To complete the mind shift needed to say “yes” to the call of becoming a follower of Jesus, means adding something of God in the space created by what you are “giving up.”
Let’s say you’ve decided to “give up” one meal a week during Lent (fast). Filling up that space created by fasting with something of God might mean using the time you’d usually spend preparing/eating/cleaning up that meal for extra prayer, Bible reading, or service to others. Or maybe you choose to give up your favorite snack. You can complete the circle of self-denial by estimating the amount of money you save by not purchasing that snack during Lent and give that money as an extra offering at your church or to some other organization that serves those in need in your community.
When we take this needed extra step, the spiritual discipline of self-denial becomes less about what “us” and more about how opening up to God’s grace in new ways…and about more fully following Christ!
Your partner on the journey,