I was first introduced to the practice of Lent in college. The idea of joining with believers around the world in practicing sacrifice to prepare myself for Easter appealed to my love of structure and symbolism, so I was thoroughly interested. I’ve participated every year after that, except for this year. This year, I didn’t do it for the most spiritual of spiritual of reasons.
It just snuck up on me, like so many other things this year. But that didn’t stop me from giving something up. Thanks to a combination of poor warm-up habits and an oh-it’s-not-THAT-bad mentality, I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder. I had to skip my morning workout for about a week and a half while the injury healed.
Okay, so it wasn’t voluntary, and I didn’t do it to prepare to celebrate the resurrection of my Savior. But I did give something up during the Lent time frame, and I did manage to learn something: when you give something up, you learn exactly which holes in your life it had been filling.
If you’ve done a non-traditional fast before, maybe you know what I’m talking about. You gave up Facebook and realized you weren’t just giving up statuses and like buttons. You were giving up social acceptance and the ability to craft the way people see you. In my case, when I stepped away from my morning workout, I wasn’t giving up bench press and curls. I was giving up a source of self-esteem. I was giving up a source of pride.
I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. When we give things up, it can teach us a lot about ourselves if we let it. Sometimes it takes a while, but if you give it time, you’ll be able to see the shape of the hole that thing left when you set it aside.
And maybe that’s part of why God asks us to sacrifice. It’s not like he needs the tithe we send to church, the sleep we give up to have a little quiet time, or even the chocolate we would’ve eaten during Lent. Sacrifice doesn’t benefit God. It benefits us.
Today is Good Friday. Today we remember a time that God was the one making a sacrifice.
And, strangely enough, we benefit again.