Thursdays Thoughts - Carrying on with Lent
So as the 40 days of lent draw to a close. You might be thinking, why is this titled 'Carrying on with Lent?'...Just to be clear this isn’t going to be me saying that we should carry on not eating chocolate or not being on social media. In fact it’s something completely different. Lent isn’t just about giving something up. It’s about taking something up.
Whilst I’ve been reflecting back over my experience of this lent season, I realised that at the beginning of lent I was so focused on what it was I wanted to give up. For me this was giving up Instagram, because every morning the first thing I’d do would be to reach for my phone and scroll through Insta for ages before I got up. So I gave it up because I wanted to have the first thing I do in the morning to be focused on God. Instead I wanted to read a chapter of the Bible each morning as the first thing I do during lent. Reading the chapter of the Bible in the morning was going great. But, I didn’t realise that during the day I gained a load more time as well. I didn’t realise just how much time I spent plugged in on my phone scrolling endlessly on Instagram until I gave it up.
I found that I had tried to replace this extra time during my day with other things like YouTube or Facebook. But I eventually realised, that there was no point deleting Instagram if I was just going to waste all of the extra time I found! So my plan was to try and discipline myself to do something worthwhile with the time I now had. I wanted it to be a time in which I connected with God. So, I decided that when I felt the urge to scroll through Facebook or watch endless amounts of YouTube, I would pick up my guitar and sing some worship songs or go pray. Now this was difficult for me because there was no real structure or time frame to it, not like reading the Bible in the morning. I'd found starting my day with the Bible was easier because it would be first thing in the morning. Although it still hasn’t been easy, some days I’d wake up and not feel like I really wanted to read. This meant I’d end up putting it off till later in the day when I would feel guilty for not sticking to the plan that I had set at the beginning of lent.
As lent went on I found that it got so much easier to focus on what I have taken up for lent instead of what I gave up. I kind of forgot all about Instagram. I found that as I read the Bible in the morning, I would be focusing more and I would be hearing God talk to me through the word. I read things that felt really relevant to the kind of challenges and things I was currently going through. What Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.'
Now we are in this time of lock-down, at this time more than ever I feel we really need to discipline ourselves in a routine of reading the Bible and a routine of prayer.
My point in telling you all of this is that Lent isn’t just about giving things up. It’s about making more time to press into God. So with the title of 'Carrying on Lent', I’m not asking you to carry on without chocolate and I’m not asking you to give something up. I’m asking you this...are you going to carry on with a discipline that you have taken up during lent? Or, are you going to take up a discipline of prayer or reading the word?
For me I will re-download Instagram, but I’m going to try and discipline myself to not end up scrolling endlessly through it during the day. More importantly I’m going to find more time in my day to have intentional time with God and will definitely be carrying on with my Bible reading in the morning, and well as finding time to pray.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:5-8,
'And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.'
Prayer is powerful and doesn’t have to be for an extended amount of time, even Jesus tells us not to babble on. As we see in the passage from 2 Timothy, the Bible is also powerful and can help equip us for every good work. So I’d really encourage you to find a routine for reading your Bible and prayer during your day and sticking to it. St Aldates is called a 'House of Prayer for all Nations'. Let’s be people who are 'Houses of Prayer'.