A good time to practice dying
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Why bother? Here’s why; it’s a great way to practice dying.
It’s customary to give something up for the season of Lent. For example, some give up meat, or desserts, or caffeine. Others give up social media, or television, or shopping. They idea is to use this time to say “No” to some things in order to say “Yes” to what God has for us. We say “No” to some of the desires and appetites that dominate our lives in order to say “Yes” to the appetite for God and his agenda.
This is similar to what Jesus had in mind when he uttered these words:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:24-26
Jesus’ audience knew what it meant to “take up a cross.” It meant you were about to die. But he’s not talking here about physical death. He’s referring to dying to self. Dying to a self-directed life. Putting to death those things that fall under the category of “gaining the whole world.” Very often that includes the appetites that run our lives.
By giving something up for Lent, we’re essentially taking a step in that direction. We’re saying “I’m going to remove this thing from its position of dominance, and learn how to experience a better life instead.” In essence, we practice dying to self and learn how to live to God.
If your routine involves giving something up, then I urge you to also spend time listening. What is God saying in that space that you’ve just opened? If you’re practicing dying to self, how are you beginning to become alive to God? If you’re “losing your life” for Christ, what are you finding in return?