By Dawn Reed
Lent is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is a common practice by Catholics and Christians to give up, or fast from, something during that time in order to focus more on God and all that the Easter holiday really stands for. (Many give up pop, television or sweets, though it can be other things.)
A few weeks ago, my daughter was concerned about what to give up for Lent. (It’s been something she’s done for the last couple of years.) Since she couldn’t decide, I told her she could do something instead of give up something. She could read her Bible every day for 40 days or volunteer. She told me that wasn’t how it worked.
Our pastor has invited our church to be involved in fasts and challenges over the years. Some of them have been tough, to tell you the truth, but they have helped us to grow deeper in our faith and closer in our relationship with God. We have known another challenge was coming and have been trying to guess what it would be. I imagined many things.
Our pastor just happens to be my husband, so I tried my best to find out in advance what our challenge would be, working it into almost every conversation. I wasn’t going to tell anybody, I just wanted a little heads-up to be prepared. He saw through my slyness and his lips were sealed.
Last Sunday, at the end of a sermon on living a holy life, he laid it all out. He quickly stated that the challenge was strictly volunteer. It was not from him personally, but he absolutely felt it was from God. The challenge was to give up social media for the 40 days before Easter. Many across the congregation smiled. They had guessed it in advance. But…for those who are not on social media-that’s me, he challenged us to read the Bible through in 40 days. Holy Smokes! I sure didn’t see THAT coming! 40 Days?! Since it is my personal goal to be as close to Jesus as possible, I was in. He asked us to read the New Testament first to learn about Jesus and then move to the Old Testament to learn about God.
As soon as some of us got home, we searched for a guide to reading the Bible through in 40 days. As most everything is on the internet, we found one. I tweaked it, changing the New Testament to be read first. Printing it out, it didn’t seem that bad. (Social media giver-uppers thought we had it easy and Reading the Bible through-ers thought the others had it made.) We handed out copies of the reading guide that night. As I said, it didn’t look that difficult…until I started. I had forgotten how many chapters were in each book!
The official first day of the challenge was on Wednesday, though some of us started early. That Wednesday night at Bible study, my beloved encouraged everyone. If we were reading the Bible through, he told us not to make it a race. If we got through it, we got through it, but it was more important to just read it. We didn’t need to worry about keeping up with someone else. We just needed to give it our best and learn as much as we could. (I was THRILLED with this news! And so were many others! I was already behind schedule!)
To date, social media giver-uppers are surviving quite well and have started using their new extra time to read their Bibles. Reading the Bible-as much as we can-ers are pressing on. We are reading many things we already knew and it’s refreshing while also finding treasures we didn’t realize were there. Even kids and teenagers are involved! I’m so proud of them all!
Resurrection Day is coming in just a few weeks! I’m not saying you should give all your earthly goods to the poor, but I’m wondering…is there something you should do to prepare yourself for the holiday besides color eggs? It could be something small, like send an Easter card each week to a shut-in, forgive someone, pray each day for someone, secretly help someone without them knowing it was you, encourage one person a day until Easter, read your Bible every day for five minutes…and on and on!
Sometimes it’s difficult to sacrifice time and energy or go the extra mile. Yes, it’s a sacrifice, but it helps us remember the extreme and supreme sacrifice Jesus made for US.