As a protestant, I’ve gone through all sorts of thoughts and emotions regarding the season of Lent. These thoughts have ranged from deciding to give up coffee (and then about four day into the forty days, taking it back up) to being completely opposed to anything to do with Lent since it was “a Catholic thing.” Studying at a Bible college exposed me to a lot of Christian traditions I had never experienced before – things like liturgy, common prayer, and, yes, Lent. Since I didn’t have the responsibilities of school this year, I decided I wanted to really process through the spiritual significance of Lent and decide for myself (and with my husband) if I wanted to take part in the experience of truly making a lifestyle change during the season of Lent.
The biggest conclusion I came to was that the only reason to change something in your life for forty days is to somehow benefit your relationship with the Lord. I hated the idea of simply going through the motions of changing something that didn’t really matter spiritually. Giving up coffee, for example, wouldn’t do anything for me spiritually, it would just make me grumpy.
One thing that Nate and I decided was a problem in our walk with the Lord was TV. We don’t have anything against TV or even that we feel as though we watch too much TV. It simply was that we’d willingly watch an hour or two a night and then be too tired by the time we were going to bed to do our Bible study together. We realized this was not good. If we could take time before we were exhausted to do it, our spiritual lives would be strengthened so much! So… Should we give up TV and movies for these forty days?
The answer for me was, interestingly enough, a resounding NO! I really felt as though giving up that source of relaxation would not draw me closer to the Lord. There are nights I come home from work stressed out beyond belief and all I want to do is sit and turn my brain off while watching an episode of Doctor Who. Taking that away from me would turn me into someone Nate doesn’t want to be around. (Yes, I know that’s something I need to work on) If giving up TV was not the answer for us but we still want to change our habits and grow spiritually, what is the answer?
We decided that the real needed change was not the complete giving up of the action but a change in the action. We wanted these forty days to not only grow us closer to the Lord, but also create lasting habits and good discipline. We decided that, instead of completely nixing TV, we would have daily lists of things we desired to get done each day, including personal and couple Bible study and prayer, and leave the TV off until those things are accomplished. Since it supposedly takes 21 days to make or break a habit, I figure in forty days we’ll be very set in our new way of spending our time.
I’m excited to see what this change in lifestyle will do for us, both spiritually and self discipline-wise. I encourage others of you to use this forty days to make lifestyle changes that grow you closer to the Lord as well.