A wonderful new article by Jim Palmer at Relevant Magazine proposes a different kind of Lenten discipline: What if, instead of giving up food, Facebook and foolin’ around, we fasted from the self-critical and fearful “voices in our head” that keep us from resting contentedly in God’s love?
I wonder what Jesus would think of all our inventive Lenten practices. One thing I know for sure is that Jesus desires our freedom. Jesus said his mission was to set captives free, and that knowing the truth would set us free. I know a lot of Christians who are knowledgeable, zealous, moral, and disciplined, but who are not free. There is always some inner malady or life circumstance disturbing their peace, stealing their happiness, diminishing their worth, disconnecting them from love, or filling them with fear and anxiety.
What would it be like to be free? Free from the emotional baggage that sabotages your life, free from that static anxiety that interferes with enjoying the moment, free to be yourself, free to be at peace regardless of your circumstances, and free of all the self-conscious preoccupations constantly ricocheting around in your head. Jesus never promised we’d be rich or that our lives would be void of difficulties and hardships, but he did say we could be free.
Paul wrote in Galatians, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” I can think of no better Lenten practice for embracing the significance of Jesus Christ then to take our stand in freedom. Sometimes the person who is putting “a harness of slavery on you” is yourself. Paul admonished in 2 Corinthians to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
What if our Lenten practice was to deny every thought floating around in our heads and hearts that compromises the freedom Christ wants for us? What if we took advantage of the Lent season to give up every idea we have that opposes freedom and embrace the truth that offers peace in whatever situation we find ourselves in?
To be “free” would mean you were not affected or restricted by any condition or circumstance. Freedom in Christ means nothing can affect or restrict your experience of love, peace, fulfillment, and contentment because these spiritual qualities emanate from the presence of Christ within you. In every moment, those spiritual realities are alive within you and available to you without condition.
So why don’t we experience these realities? Because we listen to that voice in our head. What voice? You know; that voice in your head that is constantly telling you that you lack something. You know the one? It’s the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, gifted enough, cool enough, creative enough, disciplined enough, spiritual enough, or competent enough. The voice also tells you that if you were somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else you’d be happier.
The voice gets you striving after possessions, money, beauty, success, status, power, recognition, or a special relationship. It promises as a result that you will feel better about yourself, feel complete and loved and worthy, and be happy. What the voice doesn’t bother telling you is that it’s a bottomless hole you are trying to fill. As long as that voice is running your life, you will never be at peace or fulfilled except for those fleeting moments when you briefly obtain what you wanted before realizing it’s not enough, and you need and crave more.
Read the whole article here.