by Adrienne Bumpers
March 5, 2015
Ever since my teenage years, I have always taken the season of Lent seriously. Every time I begin the season, I am ready for the challenge of sacrificing something in order to learn something new. Because I look forward to that challenge ahead I easily miss the ways that God is moving in my life. It’s not why I begin my 40-day sacrifice every year. Lo and behold, God shows up every time, usually adding new perspectives to the challenge I thought I was setting forth on.
Let me walk you through the first two weeks of this lenten season. This year I decided that I would like to abstain from eating items of food with added sugar. This takes away most sweets and several processed foods from my diet. This has brought a daily challenge of consciously saying no every day, even several times a day to something that I use to relieve stress. I have a high stress work environment that is constantly reminding me how often I snack on sweet things. Not only have I realized that I eat way too much sugar, but I have acknowledged to God…what was I thinking?!
God has showed up like usual. In addition to my challenge of abstention, I have been reminded of how weak my daily prayer and devotion is and how much more I can love others. I have received several growth opportunities at work … not the fun ones that people look forward to, the ones that make you shed tears, feel week and incompetent, feel powerless and break you. I have been broken by a challenge to overcome criticism, misunderstandings and mistrust with love, compassion and understanding. My authority was challenged. I am a woman in an authority position and not only did I feel disrespected, I felt a bit oppressed. I experienced anger, confusion — all of my thoughts spinning. I was not excited in the least about this opportunity but I know that I needed it.
1 Peter 1 has been very comforting to me during this wall hitting situation. I encourage you to read it as I share the highlights that have hit close to home. I relate to the encouragement given to the exiles in this story. I myself feel a bit displaced right now with my emotions going haywire. This scripture is instructing displaced groups spreading God’s word that although they experience trials during their displacement, they rejoice and sing praises to the Lord (v.6). They also are encouraged to prepare their minds for action, disciplining themselves as they hope for God’s grace (v. 13). Lastly they are reminded to “love one another deeply from the heart” (v.22).
These themes are quite simple (and very common throughout the new testament) and yet they have deeply affected my outlook of the challenged I am facing. My anger had to be swallowed when I read “rejoice.” I identify with the action of discipline and pray that God is shedding grace on me as I have emotionally reacted. Then, to be reminded of the simple theme of love, what a refreshing idea of how I can move forward in my challenge: I must love those that have angered me. This took me from absolute discouragement to hopeful, a much needed perspective as I work to overcome my obstacle.
These are just the few things that I have taken away so far in my lenten journey this year and I yearn to see things even more deeply as I move forward.
Meditation to think of throughout the day:
I will not turn back.
Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I so easily miss the ways you are moving in my life. You continue to use every opportunity to mold me, to teach me, even by giving me the same instruction over and over. Thank you for your patience and encouragement to press on despite the obstacles that I face. I ask that you continue to move me past those obstacles, regardless of how difficult the journey is. All glory and honor is yours. Amen