I grew up Baptist, so Lent was something I would torture my Catholic friends about. They would give up chocolate… I’d eat it in front of them. I was a sweet kid.
In college, I finally learned what Lent was. I attended a church in Oxford every once in awhile & heard they were doing a night service for Ash Wednesday. I weirdly felt like I needed to go, despite having no idea what Ash Wednesday was.
That was the Lord doing work.
I was in a lukewarm season of life, but God did some foreshadowing that night. He introduced me to a practice that would solidify my Christianity years later.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you & not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
When I moved back to Memphis in May of 2016, I was a pretty annoying human being. I was stressed about landing my dream job, & prideful for the same reason. It made me extremely moody and narcissistic…
I was also experiencing tragedy for the first time as I reported from shootings & car crash scenes. The Lord was living in very small quarters of my heart, so all of this put together created the most broken human being.
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, & their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21
That October I told my parents I needed to go to therapy. My dad told me that wasn’t the solution… Jesus was.
For the next four months I started talking to God more, reading my bible, & going to a few church services. I was getting a relationship with God back, but it didn’t happen overnight.
That’s where we get to Lent.
“Their land has also been filled with idols; They worship the work of their hands, that which their fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:8
I was dealing with idols a lot of us 20 somethings have: alcohol & social media. I wouldn’t say I was addicted to either, but both definitely kept (& keep) me from walking through the world like Jesus did… no matter how much he enjoyed his bread & wine nights with his bros, then documenting it. (hehe)
God has this annoying ability to scream at you until you do something. While I was driving last February, he told me I needed to do Lent again this year & do it big. A week before Lent started, I made the decision to give up alcohol & Snapchat.
"For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart." Matthew 6:21
I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed how much those two things are used in millennial social settings. I was constantly tempted to download the app & say yes to the guy offering a free drink. I wish I could tell you I succeeded, but I didn’t. I struggled in the weight of these idols the entire time. With every success or failure, I was talking/begging/internally screaming to God, asking him to help me.
"Yet he knows my way; if he tested me, I should come forth like gold." Job 23:10
It hurt to let him down. However, it also made me understand what true love was for the first time in my life.
Jesus gave up his life for us, & I couldn’t even keep from having a beer or taking a selfie.
Here’s the wonderful part: All I have to do is ask him to forgive me & he will. No grudges, no “told you so's”, no maybe tomorrows. Jesus was a perfect person & I screw up so much, yet he continually loves me & will never leave.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
This weekend I was talking with a friend about the feeling of heartbreak. How it hurts physically & you never think anyone else could possibly survive it. It didn’t hit me until then that God feels that kind of pain every single time we sin against him. It’s not a generic sadness, it’s pure heartbreak. Yet, he stays in the relationship & never gives up on us.
I grew up in church, yet I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that.
So ladies and gents, that’s why the holiday that falls on February 14th & celebrates love is Lent, not Valentines Day… because no man can compare that.
"The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, & renew you in his love." Zephaniah 3:17
**Big thanks to Phen Hildreth for the amazing photo!