Lent began yesterday, March 5th. I grew up giving up things for Lent– like sweets, soft drinks, or chewing gum. So I can relate to this story I found online when constructing the bulletins for the Lenten services at the church where I work:“Some years ago a friend of mine told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his bothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad–but boy, I can’t wait until Easter.” *
Now, as an adult, I realize the purpose of Lent is a whole lot more than just giving up something for 40 plus days. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Christians are called to abstain from some sin in their lives during this time. Experts say it takes 30-50 days to reverse a bad habit. Lent is not the time to just temporarily stop sinning, thinking that after Good Friday we can pick it up again because it is now Easter. No, we are to use this time to discipline ourselves so we can better eradicate it from our lives.True, we should always try to abstain from sinning. But, like dust on furniture, it is funny how sin starts to accumulate if we do not take the time to clean our souls. That requires some contrite, on-our-knees confession prayers to God now and then. That’s the purpose of Lent.
I am a pretty much a fanatical clean and neat freak, (I know. Right now my close friends and family are rolling their eyes and saying, “You think?”) But, I confess, when I get busy with life I often put off the dusting and vacuuming. After a while, it shows. Dust mites float in the sunlight and land on my TV, computer monitor, the bookshelves, and the table tops. After a while, you can scrawl your name in them. But, if you leave the curtains and blinds drawn, then my house looks fairly picked-up and presentable. I think our lives can be the same way.
So,maybe we can see Lent as a spiritual spring cleaning. When you draw back the curtains and let in the Light of the World, Christ shines on those dust bunnies that have accumulated in our lives and, let’s be honest, the bit of dirt we have tried to shove under the carpets until we can deal with it later. You know, those nagging little whispers of our conscience that tell us we need to make a change in our attitudes and habits.
Jesus, by His death, became our duster. He helps us wipe away our sins, so our souls, which are the dwelling place for His Holy Spirit, can become sparking clean again.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? I Corinthians 6:19
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:41
This Lent, instead of giving up something, take on this: Let Jesus’ white glove scrape across your life, and where there is some dust of sin settling, let Him help you wipe it clean. Then, confess to Him often, so you can stay clean. Don’t let sin accumulate in your temple! Tell the devil that is one thing you plan to give up.