I didn’t grow up observing Lent. I remember the first time I saw a friend with ashes across her forehead, and I remember a few people who opted for the cheese rectangular pizza when they went through the cafeteria line instead of the kind with little cubed pepperonis. But I never really knew what Lent was about. The thought of giving up something didn’t sound appealing, so I never thought much about it. But a couple years ago when I was on staff at our church, my pastor encouraged the staff to fast from something during the forty days leading up to Easter. Those weeks were hard for me, but as we celebrated Holy Week that year my heart felt less encumbered, my soul more free. Last week when I realized the start of Lent was only days away, I began to pray that God would show me what I needed to surrender this year during Lent.
I don’t know about you, but those are always scary prayers to pray because I’m afraid of His answer. Yesterday, while studying another passage I wound up coming across this passage.
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. Isaiah 30:15-16
Snow was falling hard outside and ice was glazing the sidewalks and trees. In a literal way God was painting a picture of rest and quietness, and I wanted to flee. I’ve shared with you before that I struggle with wanting to please people. But over the last few weeks it has become paralyzing. The voices of public opinion scream within my head. I find myself caring more about likes and shares and comments than I do obeying the One who gave me a message to write. Last week I wrote a blog, and I almost didn’t publish it because I was afraid of what people would think. And suddenly the reality of how dependent I had become on everyone else’s opinion of me was alarmingly clear.
I don’t like to just be. I want to fill every moment with a picture, every silence with a word, every hunger with a forkful, every goal with a list. I want anything to fill the quietness. For the last month or so, I’ve been taking a Sabbath from social media every Sunday. That quietness has been hard but liberating. There’s nothing wrong with social media. For an extrovert like me, it’s a social playground. People, people everywhere. One never ending conversation that winds and weaves its way throughout my life. But the reality I’m facing is that I’ve let those voices mute the voice of the One I most desire.
The forty days of Lent comes from the forty days Jesus spent in the desert when Satan was tempting Him. With every temptation, Jesus responded with the truth of God’s Word. For me, the voices of everyone I want to please are drowning out the voice of my Savior. Pride and insecurity are running like swift steeds. During these six weeks of Lent, I will put down the status updates, let go of the 140 characters and surrender my instant images to the message my Creator is writing on my heart. A message of rest. An invitation to return to quietness.
I’m also taking up a challenge from Margaret Feinberg to read through the New Testament during Lent. The Lent Challenge has a reading plan where you cover about seven chapters a day in roughly thirty minutes. Giving up FB, Twitter and IG for the next forty days should leave me with some extra time for this challenge. This weekend at the Downline Women’s Summit I noticed a common theme among all the women who taught. They were filled with God’s Word and in love with the Story He wrote for us. It was special and beautiful and inspiring.
I will still be here writing–hopefully with more honesty and courage–the messages God impresses on my heart. WordPress automatically links posts to my Twitter and Facebook accounts so you’ll still see notifications there when I publish a blog. But instead of my heart chasing likes or comments or shares, my heart will be choosing quietness. The Message translates Isaiah 30:15 this way, “Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me–the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”
I anticipate it will be painful–confronting my pride and insecurity always is–but I’m willing. Willing to rest instead of rush. Willing to return instead of flee. Willing to enter the quietness and hear from the only Voice who truly matters.