Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:1-2
I hate my alarm clock.
Understand that there is nothing wrong with this gadget: it works properly (oh, too properly), I can see it mocking me from across my bedroom (I can activate any snooze button in my sleep, hence the need to place it away from arm's reach), and I can certainly hear it shrieking in increasingly ridiculous decibels. Perhaps, more than the apparatus itself, I hate waking. Or at least waking before I'm ready. There was a time in very recent memory when I would bound out of bed (okay, not bound; but at least shuffle out of bed without malice) and head down to my coffee and quiet time. Granted, that was in the summer months when the sun was peeking at me, just over the sill in my kitchen window; and my children could sleep until nine or so, as we had no commitments outside of the pool opening at eleven. Even the recollection of those mornings draws out warmth and tugs a smile into the corner of my south. But the dark, the winter, pulls at my resolve to rise early. I dash across my floor, eagerly hitting the snooze button and take the few steps back into my bed, throwing the covers over me, silently pleading, "five more minutes, Lord. Just five more minutes." And five becomes 30, then 60, until I have to get up lest the children be late to school. Still dark, still cold; but now missing the delightful communion with my God. I resolve to meet Him later in the day, which I generally do. And I know that He is with me throughout my day. His place is not scripted only in the times before my family rises.
Yet the paces of my day become flustered; my mode catch up, rather than soak up. Quick fill-er-ups and stolen moments in the flow of the day; instead of separate, oasis in my life.
Upon meditation, I became aware of this and other tendencies in my flesh that are, though not pulling me away from God, certainly keeping me stagnant. Pride. Distraction. Sloth. [No, this isn't a prelude to one of my favorite movies. It is merely the reason driving the next 40 days.] Which leads to me to the observation of a practice I thought I left far behind. Though of late, I am becoming more respectful of the offices kept by our liturgical brethren. This year, I feel the Lord is calling me to practice Lent.
Historically, Lent is observed for the 40 days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, during which observers recognize the temptation (ergo full humanity) of Christ in the desert prior to His Incarnate ministry. It is a time where followers sacrifice something (e.g. "give up") for the prescribed period in observance of Christ's sacrifice of His place as God [leaving the Heavenly realm to live, caged in flesh, among the fallen on Earth]. Typically, a follower will abstain from something that is interfering with their relationship with God. This is to prepare their hearts for the resurrection of Christ, the holiest day on the Christian calendar, the apex of history thus far.
I didn't exactly make my choices; more accurate would be to say that they were made for me as I reflected upon my daily life.
Sadly, the first thing I think about when I wake is not the Lord, His plan for my day, nor even my delight in being His child. It is: "what am I going to eat?" Oh, how it pains me to write that. Worse still, is the internal dialogue I have regarding the choices I've given myself. Which will make me feel healthy and thin; which will be more satisfying, but send me spiraling into self-loathing when my jeans don't fit. From that point, my mind is primed on its favorite topic: how I feel about, how I feel other people think about, how I feel about the way I think about how other people think about ~ how I look. Yikes. Doesn't get more self-centered than that, does it? Granted, I'm not one who looks at myself in the mirror and thinks everyone should be looking at me. Quite the opposite. I'd rather people didn't. But that extreme is on the continuum of pride. I spend a great deal of time thinking about how I look, and how other people see me. Pride.
As I'm writing this, I'm having an internal dialogue with you [my imaginary reader] as to whether or not you like what you're reading so far. You've interjected a few times. I've made changes accordingly. Have I mentioned that I have a desire for the approval of others? With the painless anonymity of the internet, I can alert the world of my every thought and have anyone who is so moved respond. Notice me. Distract me. My favorite social networking site has conveniently built this into my day. And I have become a junkie. I have a hard time getting on the computer to do anything without first getting my fix out of the way. If I want to do a word search to compliment a study, I hop on the internet, but first check my page. So this fixation feeds both my distraction and pride.
None of these activities/interests/practices are bad. They are not sinful. They are merely things that have crept into my life. Things that if left unchecked, could settle into my life, could be habit-forming, could affect the way I engage in the praxis of the gospel. So, for the next 40 days, I'm giving up: sugar, my favorite social networking site, and my snooze button. All three represent something in my flesh that is keeping me from realizing, rejoicing in, and proclaiming the miracle of the resurrection daily. Without each, and in their place communion with and reliance upon my LORD, I will hopefully come out on the other side struggling less with pride, distraction, and sloth. And delighting more in the sacrifice of Jesus, as He gave up His position in Heaven to walk among us.
I'll let you know how this all goes, imaginary reader. If you'll hold me accountable.