The Heart of Lent

This week’s Pulse is from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

Today is a day I think back to the New Years’ resolutions I made just a short 2.5 months ago. Specifically this year I promised to read more books, eat daily vitamins, and be more generous with my time/money/things and words. I’m not the greatest at keeping up with personal resolutions (alas that 365 tablet vitamin bottle only has a few missing) so reminders here and there help.

Today marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Lent is yet another time of year where people give up certain things– TV, money spent on certain things, sweets, you name it. It’s always interesting and quite telling to hear what people are giving up… you find out a lot about a person through the things they resolve to do or to give up!

Every year in the days before Lent, I hem and haw about what to give up–and moan about how hard it’s going to be: TV (I couch potato way more than I care to admit out loud), coffee (it’s probably bad for me anyway), spending on unnecessary things (should probably try to keep saving instead of buying). I always count the cost of giving up things that are vices and guilty pleasures, but then get excited and motivated dreaming about the end of the 40 days where I’ll be more intellectual, less caffeine-dependent, and more financially stable.

But I realize that the problem with Lent in our culture today is that we are too caught up in the self-betterment, self-improvement mentality that comes with the opportunity to make a commitment. We’re a society obsessed with the idea of a new start, a new leaf, a chance to do better. New starts, leaves, and chances are not inherently bad things, but we lose the true meaning of Lent when we see it as merely another time to make our physical bodies and lives better. While there’s nothing wrong with giving up eating ice cream or drinking soda, it’s important to evaluate the true heart behind participating in Lent. Is it just for us to be better people with better living habits? Or are we giving up something in order to draw closer in intimacy with God, our ultimate source of life?

Fasting is the spiritual discipline where we forgo our usual things in order to place ourselves in a place of dependency, a state that helps us realize our need and hunger for God. In preparation for fasting I need to check myself: I need to align my heart back to the true meaning behind why we’re invited into this season. God’s inviting me to experience new life– not just a more improved physical life– but also a deeper more intimate understanding of God as my Father, and Jesus as my Savior, and Holy Spirit as my living breath.

And another thought I have about Lent is this– I know the traditional way is to fast and to give up something; but what if instead of subtracting we added something instead? What if we pressed ourselves more deeply into God’s presence by purposefully entering into a place where we truly need Him? This thought came to me as I think about the highly-publicized and hotly discussed Asian-themed fraternity party at Duke University that occurred a few weeks ago. As an Asian American, a sorority woman and someone who ministers to Greek students on the university campus, my heart broke in the wake of this incident as I found myself on both sides of the story, identifying with both oppressed and oppressor. I find myself needing God in how to process all of this. Oppressed, oppressor, bystander– no matter which side we find ourselves on, we need our Savior. This Lent I find myself on my knees, needing my Father who reconciles all people to Himself and to one another. This Lent in addition to fasting from TV and coffee and random spending, I’m committing to praying daily for racial reconciliation to happen in the Greek system on campuses across the nation. The larger conversation about how we relate to one another and make peace across differences is large and complex, but a good place to start as an individual is in prayer and intercession. Join me in this season of subtracting (and perhaps adding) to draw nearer to Jesus.