Over the course of lent, I gave up fizzy drinks and sweets, two things that I indulged in way too much. Lent is a period of time that gives us the opportunity to put a stake in the ground to say that God is worth more to us than anything else, as well as the opportunity to reflect on how we honour God and those around us with our actions/habits. So today, I’m going to share some reflections on my period of lent.
For lent I gave up fizzy drinks and sweets, which includes chocolate. Some of you are probably thinking ‘What’s the big deal’? Well, for me, these things have a big part in my life, it’s very rare a day passes when I don’t consume something from one of these categories.
They have helped form a rather unhealthy pattern in my life. I don’t think I consciously acknowledge it, but on a subconscious level there was an element of ‘needing’ a fix, placing it above healthy habits and rational expenditure. The bible calls it gluttony, the habitual greed or excess in eating, and we’re warned against partaking in it numerous times (1 Cor 10:17, Luke 12:15, Eph 5:3, etc.).
For this reason, I believe this habit meant I was taking away some of my honour and love towards God. In Exodus 20:3, God explicitly says none shall be before him. So by placing my snacking above God at times, I’m not fully able to experience and engage my connection with God in it’s entirety because I’m seeking something else to satisfy me.
And so this is were lent comes in. Lent is an opportunity to realign ourselves with God, just as Jesus did in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). For me, intentionally giving up the snacks helped me realign my priorities with God, as well as press a bit of a reset in terms of healthy living.
The following are some short reflections from #Lent2017:
1) Struggling Is OK
So on the first day of lent I messed up! We we’re driving to Manchester for a conference, and at a service station and I forgot about lent and bought a hot chocolate (it’s got chocolate in it so I counted it on my list of things I couldn’t have). At the first hurdle, I failed. But that’s actually ok. My failing actually gave me an opportunity to refocus myself on why I was making the commitment to give up these snacks, and it really helped my discipline for the rest of lent.
When changing habits and breaking addictions, it’s very difficult to go cold turkey and kick the bucket without failing a couple of times. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He knows we mess up and sin. That’s why I’m incredibly thankful for grace! So if we can understand struggling and failing are perfectly natural occurrences when changing or developing ourselves, then we can strengthen ourselves moving forward from our failings.
2) Too Much Of A Good Thing IS Bad For You
There’s an old saying that goes “Too much of a good thing is bad for you”, it’s an idiom that says indulging or partaking in things to an excess is a bad thing for us. So eating an apple is a healthy source of nutrition, but if you eat 50 apples in one sitting, you’re probably going to feel an incredible amount of discomfort! The same effect happens when you snack too much, it’s probably a bit more obvious, but for me it became such a normality that I regularly accepted the consequences despite knowing how bad they were.
Lent gave me an opportunity to see how bad these habits were. As an active person, I really want to get fit and get down to 14 stone in weight, but if I constantly snack then it’s going to be nigh on impossible for me to achieve this target. So now I have a fresh perspective on healthy eating habits, which will hopefully help me achieve my fitness goals going forward.
3) You get closer to God when you remove obstacles
As I said, part of my decision to give up snacking was because it shifted my love and praise for God away from Him and onto something else. It was an obstacle that took away my energy and devotion to seek God in all that I did, and used it for unhealthy habits.
It’s like you’re trying to go somewhere but there’s a wall in front of you. If you don’t remove it, or go around it, then all you’re going to do is run into it over and over again and not get anywhere. If anything you’re just going to end up more frustrated and hurt than when you started. But if you do something about the wall and get past it, then you can make progress.
So this is what was happening to me and my relationship with God. I put a high value on my gluttony because it gave me a short term stress release, a bit of comfort. But during lent, I intentionally sought time with God instead. I passionately believe in the power of prayer and know it’s an amazing gift to be able to directly communicate with God, so instead of snacking I prayed!
Praying has become something of a second nature to me over this last year or so, and lent only helped me with that. I’ve been able to gain a closer relationship with God through it, and so through my lent commitment I’ve been able to intercede in other people’s lives, where as before I was spending that time practising selfish indulgence. I’ve been able to grow closer to God because of the intentional removal of an idol in my life.