If you asked teenage Sam what lent was about he would tell you lent is about brutal punishment.
Forty days without the things you love most like chocolate or video games or Friday night trips to Blockbuster Video. Okay now kids, Blockbuster was like a store version of Netflix where you’d go pick up a VHS tape… never mind.
The message of lent was clear and simple–if you’re really a Christian you have to prove to others that you love God more than Kit-Kats and if, by some miracle you make it forty days without giving into temptation, God may just love you in return.
You have to sacrifice, do, accomplish something to deserve love.
This message of love actually quite aligns with the values of our culture at large. You have to be worthy of love.
Our society sees worth in:
POPULARITY – like your social media following
WEALTH – All-inclusive vacations, big promotions, shiny new cars,
APPEARANCES – looks, clothes, the latest gadget, and of course the most important – number of visible abdominal muscles
ACCOMPLISHMENTS – degrees, awards, closing the big deal, medals and trophies.
Put me on that scale and well, my worth is pretty minimal. My value fairly disposable and truthfully, I am not worth very much at all.
And so I got lost in trying to keep up, lost in a world of earning love, being good enough. I become obsessed with perfection, projecting the right images of myself, trying to prove my worth to the world and to God.
Am I alone in feeling these struggles?
The truth is all of those things can disappear in an instant. All those categories won’t mean much at the end of our lives. Finding our worth and value in the things of this world is merely winning at a losing game.
You see God doesn’t put worth there.
The Bible says following Jesus won’t make you more POPULAR, in fact, it says you will be persecuted (and decidedly less popular by the world’s standards). (John 15:18)
The Bible says it is intensely harder for a RICH man to get into heaven than a poor man. Wealth doesn’t make life easier to rely on God, it makes it harder. (Matthew 19:23)
The Bible says God doesn’t care about outward APPEARANCES, he cares about our character and our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Bible says there is nothing you can ACHIEVE that will make God love you more or less, everything was already accomplished for you on the cross. (John 19:30)
If there’s one thing I wish you could know deep in your bones, it is this:
You are deeply and wildly loved by a God who doesn’t need anything from you, yet wants you more than anything in the world.
Since this type of unconditional love is not what Justin Bieber sings about on the radio, we forget. We get sucked back in to our habits and our old ways. We forget what the wondrous love of God tastes like, and feels like, and looks like in real time.
Giving something up for lent can be a great thing if it’s done quietly between you and God in order to deepen your understanding of his love. But lent is not about earning or being worthy.
Lent is a long slow season where we remember who we are, who God is and what Jesus has done for us.
Who are we?
We are crazy beloved children of God more deeply loved than we could ever understand.
Like the perfect parents holding their new born baby for the first time, that baby hasn’t done anything to deserve love, if anything the pain and mess he’s caused make him more unlovable, yet those parents hold that baby with an awe and wonder that rattles their soul.
That is how God looks at you. That is who we are.
Who is God?
God is love. We love because he first loved us. And any love we felt here is tiniest grain of sand compared to the ocean of his love for us.
What Has Jesus Done For Us?
WARNING: Lent spoiler alert: God showed us the greatest act of love in all human history. God sent his son Jesus to earth to show us in human form what the wondrous love looks like. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus, the only person to ever live a perfect life, for all of his kindness and healing was beaten and hung on a cross for us, so that all of our junk would be forgiven.
God gave his one and only son so that we would not perish, but find eternal life. Both in the here and now, and after we return to the dust from which we came.
So to the recent widow missing her deepest love. To the parent estranged from their child. To the veteran who can’t shake chaos inside their mind. To the teens looking for love in all the wrong places. To the single who needs a little bit of hope on yet another Valentine’s day alone.
Tattoo this on your face: you are deeply and wildly loved by a God who doesn’t need anything from you, yet wants you more than anything in the world.
Make today the day you finally stop striving to be worthy of this wondrous love and rest in the truth that you already are. Stop looking for your worth in things that won’t last past tomorrow, and instead root yourself in the fact that nothing you can do will ever separate you from the love of God.
He loves you for you. Like the actual you. Yes, the imperfect, messed up, just ate half a bag of Cheetos at 3 am you.
This type of love is what we all want, and the crazy thing is we already have access to it every single second we’re alive.
I don’t know where you are in your relationship with God but beginning again can be this simple:
God, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done and I’m ready to start again and become more of the person I was meant to be.
PLEASE don’t spend the next 40 days believing that lent is about brutal punishment as teenage Sam did, but instead I challenge you to move towards God. To make it a daily practice, even if it’s just 10 seconds to remind yourself who you are, who God is and what Jesus has done for you.
For that is what will change your entire life.
That is the most wondrous love of all.
This message as given by Sam at Messiah United Methodist Church on Ash Wednesday February 14, 2018 in Plymouth, MN.
A post shared by Sam Eaton (@aliverecklessly) on Feb 14, 2018 at 7:38pm PST
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