Give up to go up
Kevin, one of our young adults at St Chrysostom’s shares this lovely personal reflection on Lent and Easter:
During Lent, I decided to go on a vegetarian diet and gave up playing my favourite computer game. For me, it was a particularly difficult Lenten fast – to give up meat entirely and not being able to enjoy my favourite game at the time of the year when the university Easter break begins. The struggle was real, and my friends jokingly advised me to give up “homework” or “fasting during Lent” instead.
Fast forward to Maundy Thursday, the day that marks the end of Lent. Much to my amazement (and my friends’), I kept my fast obediently for 46 days. It was a milestone in my Christian life, as it was my first “successful” attempt at observing lent. So, what does the beginner think about fasting during lent?
First, giving up something that matters allowed me to offer a tangible sacrifice to God. Perhaps it is not surprising how often we subconsciously sacrifice “spending time with God” and not have any problems with it. But when it comes to sacrificing earthly desires, we find that it has to be done deliberately. The act of sacrificing during Lent reminded me to recommit my life to God and my desire to put Him first.
Second, my fast taught me self-control and patience. Frankly, there were moments when I was tempted to give up my Lenten fast – times when I just wanted to play a quick match to distract myself from troubling thoughts in mind. Knowing clearly that I’m still observing my Lenten fast, I resisted these temptations and told myself simply: “Not yet.” The times I’ve resisted these temptations reminded me of something: Too often, I get impatient waiting for God’s answer to my prayers and resorted to my own logical thinking to work things out (which almost never works out). Perhaps, it is during these times, that I should remind myself to trust in God and patiently allow God to lead the way; that sometimes, the answer is simply: “Not yet, my child.”
Third, the period of self-examination and reflection during Lent has certainly brought me closer to God. Coincidentally, I would say that the mood during the Great Three Days reflected my Lenten journey: I started Lent struggling to figure things out, feeling troubled and down; then came a period of “wrestling” with God, with God reassuring me countless times that He is with me (as He was in the past) but my stubbornness got ahead of myself. Finally, towards the end of Lent, God helped me find peace with myself one day in quiet reflection. God had been trying to speak to me, but I couldn’t hear Him in a noisy world. I remember a strange joy and calmness in my heart as God promised me that He will see through all my troubles and reassured me that He is ever present.
It never really occurred to me that Lent was something I might be interested in, or benefit from, or come to value as a way of getting to know God, and even myself better. Perhaps it is fitting to say that it is a season to “stop and refresh”, to deliberately give up earthly desires to understand the need to spend more time with the Lord. In the words of John C. Maxwell: “You have to give up to go up.”
As we celebrate Eastertide, may the peace and joy of the Lord be always with us. Happy Easter!