Yesterday, our Lead Pastor shared with us a devotional thought by Ruth Haley Barton regarding Lent. As I read the devotional, I began to realize that, as she stated, oftentimes Lent is more about merely giving up something, as compared to “returning to God with all of our hearts.”
The following portion of her writing really stood out to me and spoke to me:
“Unfortunately, the practice of entering into the Lenten season has often been reduced to the question: ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ This is a fine question, but it can only take us so far. The real question of the Lenten season is: How will I find ways to return to God with all my heart? This begs an even deeper question:Where in my life have I gotten away from God and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?“
(To read the complete devotional, check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/4aadok3)
Wow, that gave me something to think about….instantly, I knew exactly what God was calling me to do.
In my own life, I have found that there is always something to do, some project to complete, some task to finish. I find myself saying, “Oh, I’ll just spend a bit more time on this or that.” Usually, the project I am working on is a “noble task”; something that is worthwhile, not just mind-numbing or time-wasting. Yet, it still robs me of time; most often at the end of my day, when I should be winding down in order to rest and restore.
I was convicted.
In allowing myself “just a few more minutes” of working on a project, I realized I was cutting in on the time that I needed to protect, in order to care for my body, which is God’s temple. You see, little by little, sleep and good rest have been taken away. Bedtime started out at 10PM, slowly moved to 11PM or 11:30PM. Then, before I knew it, most nights, I discovered I was not going to bed (much less sleeping) until well after midnight. 6:30AM comes really early when you get less than six hours of sleep.
So, what does this have to do with Lent?
Well, I have thought long and hard about what to “give up” for Lent. I wasn’t feeling any conviction about anything for several days. Until today…
I believe instead of giving up something for Lent, I need to whole heartily PURSUE something. That something being SLEEP and GOOD REST. In turn, things will be given up—-namely grouchiness, short tempers, impatience and reactive behaviors.
Late nights, obviously, turn into less sleep. Yet, my kids wake up early, needing my attention and my best self. However, by going to sleep later and later, not only am I robbing myself of rest and restoration, I am allowing the lack of sleep to impact my responses and behaviors, most often to those I care about the most. Obviously, this is not what God would desire, neither do I.
As well, the later I go to bed, the groggier I am in the mornings. Not exactly, excited to jump out of bed and get the day started. If truth be told, it’s more like drag myself out of bed, pour a cup of coffee and manage to wake up after a couple of hours. Sure, the project was completed, or the assignment finished. Yet, I am ruined the next day in more ways than one.
So, what is the solution? Well, for me, I have realized God made our bodies to work holistically—body, mind, soul and spirit. If my physical body is exhausted, I will suffer mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Unfortunately, so do those around me…namely my family. (Sometimes, Momma is a G-R-O-U-C-H!)
My solution is to PURSUE sleep, rest, and restoration. Sure, my kids may need me during the night, but that’s an entirely different story. I am giving up watching one more episode, or reading one more chapter, or writing one more page, or completing one more question, or finishing up one more component of a project.
For me, sleep is not an option, it’s a necessity. By getting better rest, I know I’ll be able to be ready for the day; giving those I love the best part of me, which I know is God’s desire. As well, I will be honoring the Lord with how I treat my body and care for it. Not to mention, those extra zzzz’s might just help with completing the projects during daylight hours, and a better job might be done, too.
So, for Lent, I will pursue rest, TRUE REST. Benefiting from that rest and restoration, shedding some bad habits in the process and returning to God all that I am body, mind, soul and spirit.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Those, who know me personally, keep me accountable. Ask me the hard questions. I’ll give you the honest answers.