Lent and my closet

Previously on this site, Adam wrote about the growing popularity of Lent among evangelicals. I’m one of those native evangelicals who grew up observing only Christmas and Easter on the church calendar, but who has found great spiritual fulfillment in the discovery and practice of the traditions associated with the church calendar. One of those traditions is Lent. I don’t go to an Ash Wednesday service — my Baptist church doesn’t have one — but I do enjoy the season of Lent as a special time of introspection and preparation that usually includes giving up or adding something to my life that will help me to remember and identify with Christ’s sacrifice in anticipation of celebrating and participating in His resurrected life. Last year, in the middle of studying for doctoral exams, I devoted Lent to my studies, in an effort to remember to glorify God in all that I do. True, I would have been studying anyway, but purposely adding in a spiritual component reminded me of who the Giver of wisdom and knowledge is, and that my mind and my time are gifts from God meant to bring Him glory. I had a similar experience one year when I combined my healthy eating goals with my Lent goals — during that season, dieting wasn’t just dieting; it was part of living my whole life as unto the Lord. For me, Lenten observance has really been about doing the things I already know I should be doing, but it provides me with a set period in which to really focus on those things, and that helps me grow closer to God in the process.

This year, I decided to give up buying any new clothes (or shoes 🙁 ) for the duration of Lent. I’ve been putting my leftover cash each week in a special offering at our church for the hungry. So far, this experience has taught me some things:

I have too many clothes already.
I have more than enough.
But when I’m depressed or angsty, I try to fix what’s wrong by buying clothes.
I try to improve the outside when problems are on the inside.

Giving up buying new clothes — not a bad thing in itself — has shown me how I turn to shopping when I should be turning to God. I still feel the pull when I’m inside any store — especially Target, O my nemesis and my friend — I feel the pull toward the clearance racks and the new, colorful items for spring. But I say a prayer, and I turn away, and I pray that my heart would begin to feel pulled toward something other than shopping.

Giving up buying new clothes is a small, small thing — so tiny when seen in light of Christ’s bearing the wrath of God on the cross. But in identifying with Him in this small bit of suffering, I hope also to identify with Him in His life, through discovering a freedom from the desire to buy new things and the renewal of my desire to know Christ and His love and power in my life.

That, I think, is why evangelicals do Lent.

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)
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