My family and I moved to Sedalia last July with high hopes of simplifying our lives. Like so many people these days, we’d gotten into the habit of scheduling more and doing more and running here and there more. And our life of more quickly became a life of too much!
Flash forward to this January and I was on my way to Cub Scouts. My son and I have been doing Scouts as a way to spend more time together and we love it. But on this night, I found myself helping with my son’s Scout den without my son – he was playing soccer down the street! And I stopped for just a moment and thought, here I am again. How did we get here? So much for spending more time together, and so much for living simpler. Despite our best intentions, we found ourselves once again giving in to our culture of more, more, more and bigger, better, faster.
As we head into this season of Lent, I am ready to make another go of it and try to live more simply. To fight the urge to spread my life and my relationships so thin that I cannot truly experience and enjoy either. The Christian practice of observing Lent calls us to a simpler life.
This year Lent begins on Feb. 10, which is Ash Wednesday. It is a forty day time of self-examination, reflection, and prayer as we prepare ourselves for Christ’s death and resurrection. Lent ends on Easter Sunday with a beautiful celebration of the eternal life Christ promises each of us. Those of you checking the calendar may notice that there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. That’s because we don’t count Sundays as part of Lent.
So why 40 days? You might remember that Jesus, following his baptism in the Jordan River, went out into the wilderness. He spent forty days there in solitude, fasting and preparing himself for his earthly ministry. And it wasn’t easy. He was tempted to give up the fasting, the solitude, and the simplicity. Famously tempted.
Jesus’ first temptation is one with which I am all too familiar. Matthew 4: 2 tells us that after “fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry” (NIV). Jesus was tempted to turn stones to bread, but he resisted. I am not so skilled at saying no to food. And I’m always hungry. Can I interest you in a dessert? Yes, you can! Would you like fries with that? You know I would! Half price drinks at happy hour? I’ll take two and be twice as happy!
Next up, Jesus was tempted to test God’s love for him by jumping from the highest point of the Temple. Surely, if God loved him enough, God would keep him safe. Do we test other’s love for us? God must love them more because they have a bigger house, better paycheck, more things. Advertisements tell us that a bigger diamond or another dozen roses means you love them more. How often do we measure love by getting more?
And speaking of getting more, Jesus’ final temptation was to get it all. Everything. He was tempted with “all the kingdoms in the world and their glory.” You can have it all! Sometimes we say that same thing to ourselves, “I want it all!” Or we hear the television, radio, and advertisements promising us that we can have it all. And we are tempted to go after it. To abandon our family time, friends, and time with God in the pursuit of it all. But Matthew 16: 26 asks us, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (NIV)? Jesus knew his soul belonged to God and resisted trading it in for anything of this world.
As we enter into the season of Lent and prepare ourselves to celebrate all that Jesus has done for us, I want to encourage you to live these next 40 days more simply. Do we have too much stuff in our life? Too many obligations? Are we spending our money simply or extravagantly? And are we taking the time to simply listen to our family and friends or are we already thinking about the next place we need to be? Let us spend the next forty days living simply and preparing ourselves to live this life more fully so that we are fully ready for the next.