It seems like every time I'm home for youth group something happens that challenges me. I guess it surprises me because I am technically to old for the group at this point, and now I always assume that I will be an observer. But that's not how it works. I am the oldest, and so I am actually the one being observed. If I don't take the topics we discuss seriously, the younger kids will think that it's okay for them not too either. I don't want them to think that way, so I try to lead by example. I fail at that a lot, and sometimes the behavior they see from me is one that I wish I could take back. But I try my best, and I hope maybe they see that.
So when I attended youth group Thursday night and the topic was Lent, I should have known better than to think I was exempt from the activity that followed our discussion. They wrote what they would be sacrificing for lent on strips of paper and linked the strips together to form a chain.(I think it's a really cool idea). I soon found out that I was expected to participate, and everyone seemed less than impressed that I had decided to give up the same thing as last year, so that's when I expanded it to all social media.
Fast forward to this afternoon, when I returned to my dorm after spring break. I was catching up with my friends here, and somehow the conversation turned to the fact that I would not be using social media until Easter. I told them that it was for Lent and selfishly hoped they would not question me further. Explaining my faith, and what I do because of it ,to my peers is not one of my strong points. So you can imagine my feelings when one of my friends asked, not rudely but with genuine curiosity, "What are you trying to prove [by giving up something for Lent] . I didn't know what to say. At first, I tried to blow it off, saying that I just did it because I was at youth group so I had no choice. But then I realized that wasn't true. I did it willingly, and I put considerable thought into it. And if I really didn't care , I would have broken my commitment by now. So since I didn't have the right answer right away, I asked my friend if I could think about if for a while and answer her question later, and she agreed. After thinking and praying about it, I think I'm ready to give my answer.
Lent is not about proving anything. Lent is a season of preparation and growth, and it's sort of a personal journey. The forty days of the Lent season are the days leading up to Easter, and if I understand correctly it's forty days because that's how many days Jesus was tempted in the desert. I think the purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter, the day that represents the resurrection of Jesus. Now I'm going out on a limb, and the next statement is just a thing that came from my brain and could be completely incorrect. Easter is celebrated because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice (dying for our sins) and now many people make (much smaller) sacrifices, during Lent. I don't think that anyone who participates in this season for the right reasons is trying to prove anything. I think the goal is to better appreciate the sacrifice that was made for us by implementing a small sacrifice in our own lives. What I am trying to gain from making a sacrifice during this season is not the approval of others, but a deeper understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made and all that it represents. I hope this explanation has helped shed some light on the topic and not just caused more confusion. I'm not so great at explaining this kind of thing, but I felt like I needed to try.