"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in his love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving these commands so that you may love one another. John 15: 9-17 (NRSV)
Meg Mangan is from New South Wales, Australia. When she was in primary school, she remembers several children talking about having to give up candy for Lent - and not being at all happy about it. But we don't just have to give up things we enjoy for Lent. We can also give up bad habits like putting ourselves down, thinking badly of others, gossiping, or having unrealistic expectations of ourselves. These habits restrict love, rather than help it grow. and who knows, when we give up negative thoughts, words, or behaviors for Lent, we may find that we enjoy it so much that we wish to give them up forever!
But Lent is not just for letting go of things; it can also be about taking something up. After all, Jesus took up his cross. Perhaps we could take up reading more about Christ during Lent, try new ways of praying, or take time to enjoy simply being in God's presence. Maybe we could choose to reach out to someone we don't know well.
God can lead us in all sorts of ways. Instead of feeling resentful about giving something up for Lent, we may find ourselves looking forward with anticipation to the new experiences God is calling us to in this season.
What are you doing for Lent? Do you have something to share with others? Maybe you have something going on that someone else might want to try. Reach out and let people know what is on your heart this Lenten season.
Prayer: Living Lord, guide and challenge us during Lent. Help us to discover anew your grace and love in this season, in Jesus' name, amen.
Enjoy being in God's presence!