Today’s Lenten reflection comes from James Prescott. James is a 30 plus year old living in Sutton, south west of London in the UK. He is part of Vineyard Church Sutton, a community trying to explore what doing church means in a post-modern context. His interests include films, music, anything by Apple, superheroes, football and reading, and I am currently working on a book. I’m passionate about exploring the true nature of church and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. His heart is to change the perception of church, and of being a follower of Jesus from one of division, judgementalism, religion and hypocrisy to one of love, grace, unity and justice. He blogs at http://jamesprescott.co.uk/blog/
What difference does it make?
Surrender & control
We all have one.
Right at the core of our being there is a rhythm to our lives. On a purely physical level, there is a heartbeat. The pace of that heartbeat, the rhythm of it, depends on what we do with the rest of our lives, what rhythm our lives beat to.
Lent is a time when we stop and rexamine that ryhthm. It’s an opportunity to go back to the core of who we are and what we believe, and reexamine what our life is really about, and where we honestly are with God.
This Lent I have given things up – a common theme during Lent – but I have also taken something up.
Two years ago I took part in a discipleship programme, a mission into your own life if you will, which involved carrying on with my regular life – job, church, hobbies etc – but with one subtle yet crucial difference.
Jesus would be first.
For 40 days, I would live intentionally for Jesus, deliberately orientate my life around Him – and part of that included daily prayers and Bible studies, on top of regular serving, tithing and regularly attending group meetings.
It was a very fruitful process, during which I grew closer to God and realised I could do the spiritual disciplines each day if I wanted to. My rhythm changed, life seemed to have purpose, and I was actually dissapointed when it finished.
This year, I decided to for lent to do something similar – to do the Bible studies, daily prayers every morning – which is the worst time of day for me to do that, as I’m definitely not a morning person, so it would require self-discipline.
Not quite the same intensity as two years ago and not such a big commitment, but enough to be different to what I was used to.
So in doing this I took up something new for lent.
I also gave up things for lent. Most prominently, chocolate (which of course no one ever does), and take-aways.
Now I’ve managed to stay off the take-aways so far, but I have given in to the chocolate – and staying off the take-aways is proving tough, though I’m being successful so far.
But in taking up something new, I’ve done fine so far. The decision to read the Bible each morning and say a set prayer at the start of this day, and have hourly prayer reminders, is working so well. My day is starting much better, I feel more positive about each day and a real sense of peace when I go to work or church or anywhere.
God has been speaking into my heart and giving me a peace.
There is another side to this. It’s also allowed God space to get in and really deal with some difficult, painful issues as well. I have found at various points God speaking to me about His grace, about my own failings, and its been somehow easier to sit down and examine myself and deal with those issues.
Most of them being about control.
You see I like being in control. I think on many levels we all do.
It’s one of the things many of us struggle with, giving control of our hearts to God, dying to ourselves and allowing Jesus to raise us up to a new life hidden in Him. I have found that giving into temptation to eat chocolate for example is something that I do to exercise control, because there is a part of me that doesn’t want to give up control.
Because giving up something for lent involves giving up control.
In the end, the difference giving up certain things and beginning new habits make over lent is that they help us confront our issues of control.
Lent leads up to Easter, which is all about the ultimate giving up of control, the ultimate surrender on the cross – a surrender we are all called to model.
Surrender is at the heart of our faith, giving up control and surrendering it to Jesus who Himself surrendered all for us. And in the process, like what I did when I first did my discipleship course, and in what I have already experienced this year, we can end up being transformed more into His likeness.
How much are you willing to surrender to Jesus this lent?