Did you notice that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fell on the same date this year? What a coincidence that a day when people often give or receive chocolate was also a day that some people choose to give up chocolate for 40 days.
What happens during Lent
Lent is the season in the Christian calendar that precedes Easter. (Easter also falls on an interesting date this year, April 1. ) Many Christians do something to observe this time as a spiritual refresher, like fasting from a certain food or drink. I’ve heard of people “giving up” a range of things during Lent, like television, video games, social media, news, sports, or music. Some people “take up” a certain practice, like prayer, Bible study, or service projects.
A “critical” lesson
One of most interesting examples of fasting I’ve heard of was from the late Catherine Marshall. Mrs. Marshall wrote a memoir about her husband, Peter Marshall who served as Chaplain of the United States Senate. She also wrote a best selling novel Christy.
In a story reprinted in Spiritual Classics, Catherine realized she was too critical, tending to judge people and situations harshly and negatively.
Matthew 7 :1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
(The word “judge” used here is analogous to “criticise.”)
So she felt her “assignment” from God was:
“For one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”
At lunch with her family that day several topics came up that she had definite negative opinions about but she refrained from speaking up. Even though she felt lost without her usual sharp interaction, she said no one else seemed to notice.
“The federal government, the judicial system, the the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.”
She thought about a young man she knew whose life had gotten “sidetracked”, and suddenly realized her negative attitude toward him wasn’t helping. As she began thinking about him in a more positive way, she saw ways that his life could be turned around that she had not considered before. Her new attitude seemed to create an ability to see a new vision for his life that she hadn’t been able to before.
She related 5 things that she learned about a critical attitude.
- It focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy.
- It can distort our perspective and destroy humor.
- It blocks positive creative thoughts God will give us about situations.
- It impairs relationships with other people, perhaps causing them to be critical also.
- It blocks feelings of love, good will, and mercy from God’s Spirit.
Whatever you decide to do to observe Lent, look for something that will restore or increase your joy, creativity, positive relationships, mercy, and love.
I would love to know what you do to observe Lent. Please leave a comment, or if you prefer to stay anonymous, send me a private message.
On the blog home page is a link to Lenten theme posts that have appeared on the blog in the past. I hope they bless you in your Lenten journey.
The story about Catherine Marshal is told in Spiritual Classics- Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines.
Books by Catherine Marshall – find more at this link
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