We are almost three weeks into Lent now (the six week lead up to Easter). As my recent hospital admission began the day before Lent (Shrove Tuesday - I missed out on the pancakes too!), and I was ill at home for several days before that, I didn't have the chance to properly consider what I may give up/take up for my Lenten promise. I appear to have given up health (and sleep), which wasn't a deliberate decision and not one that I think God would be wanting me to keep to. Despite being nearly half way through Lent already, I do feel that as a Christian, I have an obligation to take up a Lenten promise, even if it's only for the remaining period. However, I'm having great difficulty in thinking what this could be, and also feel that my options are somewhat limited ... though perhaps this is a misconception. You see, I could give up something foody, as many do, but my extensive and diverse severe allergies already limit my diet, and whilst I can and do eat as healthily as possible, it is important to be able to keep a balanced diet. I'm sure there is something I could do without ... like Green and Black's 70% chocolate, but while I'm having such difficulties with the workings of my GI tract it quite probably wouldn't be good for me (by further reducing possible nourishment, which is already depleted by the nausea and pain), and also wouldn't be much of a hardship as the aforementioned nausea and pain are already reducing what I eat.
Other than giving something up for Lent, many take something up instead ... but what? My instinct - or perhaps it's a nudge from God - is that I ought to devote more time to prayer. Because I am a Christian I really should be praying everyday, but I'm ashamed to admit that I don't. I do pray frequently, but I don't have a routine in which I have a specific time that I dedicate to God.
It is quite possible that I have just found/admitted to what my Lenten promise should be.
Now as, on the whole, I don't know who reads this blog, I don't know how many of you are Christians or have any understanding of what Christianity is about other than Jesus being involved in it, and he was a good bloke who was born in a stable at Christmas and died on a cross at Easter time. Because of this, I feel that I ought to explain something of what this Lenten promise I've been talking about is for ... though I'm no religious leader and consider my faith to be relatively simple, so it's not going to be very in-depth. So here goes my attempt to explain something of this.
As a Christian I believe that Jesus was the mortal embodiment of God - God made into man to come and walk among us. This can seem a bit complicated when you also begin to consider Jesus being the son of God ... but both are right and true. Now then, in the 40 days (6 weeks) leading up to Jesus' death he had a rough and testing time, to say the least, suffering isolation; temptation by the devil to save himself and betray God; desertion and betrayal by friends (apostles); humiliation and degredation; the knowledge of his impending death (that on it's own can't have been easy); and ultimately the torture of crucifixion. Why on earth did he do this? For us, for everyone, for every single person in the world and for all of those to come. He did this so that we - all of us - could be closer to God, could be saved from sin and the devil, could be cleansed of all our wrong-doing. That is altruism beyond altruism. When Jesus died, and in the lead up to his death, he felt every single pain of the suffering we would if we were to go through it - both physical and psychological - because although he was God, he was also a man, a human. What pain, what suffering, what torture to endure.
Jesus gave up everything. Jesus gave up his life. This was for us - you and me and those before us and those who will come after us. What do we give up? Chocolate, crisps, things that are bad for us. It's no comparison, is it? We do those things in part for our own benefit and well-being, when really the history of it shows that we should either give something up that would benefit someone else (maybe by giving up our time for people in need), or that we should take up something that will reflect something of the burden that Jesus took upon himself for us, or the dedication of his love for us. Whatever we do, it should be God-centred. It should be significant. It shouldn't necessarily be for our own gain, but for the gain of others and for the rememberance of Jesus. Tough? Yes, but not as tough as what Jesus did.
I don't often write about my faith, as you will know if you've read the rest of my blog, but sometimes I have things I want to say about it. They may not always be 'right', but they are my current understandings. I make myself vulnerable to you by sharing these things with you, but I make no apology for telling you something about my beliefs - they are intrinsic to who I am and they way I try to live my life.