In the run up to Lent you can often hear the question “What are you giving up?” It seems to become quite a popular trend even amongst non-Christians – the practice of denying yourself something for a while. So “Giving up wearing odd socks” – what am I on about? Does that count as a thing for Lent? Let me explain…
I grew up observing Lent and each year I would give up something like chocolate, which for a chocoholic was very tough. Yes this was a good exercise and good practice at denying myself, but soon my focus on Easter started to be about when Lent would be over and I could have chocolate again, or about trying to lose weight from giving up chocolate. So I stopped giving something up for a few years because I felt I had fallen into just doing something out of habit and tradition and that I wasn’t observing Lent for the right reasons. We can often fall into the trap of just doing something because we have done it before or because we see everyone else doing it.
A few years back I decided I was ready to give something up again, and felt I was doing with the right heart. I gave up hot chocolate. This was a big thing as it’s my regular comfort drink. I remember being told by several friends that I wasn’t doing it right and it would only make sense if I gave up chocolate entirely. It was then it really dawned on me how we can totally miss the point. We have created a worldly idea of what it should look like and what is acceptable. I have come to realise there’s nothing I have to do to win God’s grace, but it is a good practice. Jesus models self-discipline and a total reliance of God, and we need to deny ourselves and put God first.
So now I see Lent as having an opportunity to lay something down as a way of indicating that it can have an unhealthy hold on my life and to get my focus right. It’s about remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for us so that we can be restored and redeemed.
So this year I prayed and thought long and hard about what would be good to give up. I came up with ‘odd socks’. So to put this in context I need to explain that I am someone well known for ‘religiously’ wearing odd socks. I am even known to purposefully pair up odd pairs so that they are ready to go. I even buy new socks and then immediately pair them up differently. The more my odd socks wind someone up with OCD, the more determined I am to wear them. They have become a symbol of refusing to conform and to do what everyone else does just because they say I should.
I have decided to give up wearing odd socks because it symbolises me laying down the need to prove myself, and the need to show that I am different. I have decided that is something that I need to surrender to God. This means I have purposefully brought some pairs and I am going to choose each day to do something that I find hard and is almost ‘painful’ for me. I am not doing this for anyone else, this is not about proving myself anymore – but by having my identity securely in God I am – saying I don’t need to wear something, to show who I am, I don’t need to prove myself – for me it is purposefully choosing to do something that goes against what I usually do.
Something I have also started to do the last couple of years is to follow the 40 Acts web site http://www.40acts.org.uk/ which encourages you to participate in acts of generosity each day. I have found this helpful and it has allowed me a chance to lay things down before God, and ask Him to work on my heart. I know He longs for my life to be more like and to learn how to be a generous giver. Through the process of recording my last album, I learned to understand the phrase ‘you can’t out-give God’. Every time I felt God lead me to give and be generous He blessed me abundantly. He is moulding in me a heart of joyful giving, and I pray this Lent that he would continue to mould me, lead and guide me in all I do.
I encourage you not to just jump into Lent for the sake of it, but to take some time to think about what its about and why we do it. I pray that today you would truly know God’s love, grace and strength in your life.
Have a blessed week,