It feels like ages ago when Lent began on February 26. In the five weeks since then, the world has changed. Our daily lives have altered. We have all given up a lot.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I decided what to give up for Lent. I chose dessert. Every year, I question my motives with what I choose. Am I doing this for myself and my health, or to substitute the vast amount of time I spend eating bon-bons with listening to God, or maybe a little of both?
Going dessert-less is laughable if I think it compares in any way with what Jesus suffered.
What I Gave Up
This year, I actually gave up more than dessert, and it hasn’t felt trite at all. You’ve given up the same thing. Whether we wanted to or not, we all gave up time with people. We keep our six feet of social distance from everyone except those we live with. If you live alone, you have given up physical contact with everyone.
Our new normal feels a little like life did in Eastern Europe when I moved there. The streets are quiet. The few who venture out run the risk of being cited by the police with a misdemeanor or criticized by suspicious neighbors. Grocery store shelves are empty. Supplies are scarce and people are short on money to pay for them. Churches are closed. Gatherings are limited to a small amount of people. People are fearful.
I gave up face-to-face time with people because I had to. A global pandemic forced me to give up. I didn’t choose this; nobody did.
What Jesus Gave Up
Jesus willingly gave up. He gave up for us. It was his purpose all along, the reason he came to earth as a baby.
The biggest sacrifice for Jesus wasn’t the pain he endured–although that was horrendous–or the humiliation or the betrayal. It was being separated from his Father, for the first time ever.
Philip Yancey expresses this well in The Jesus I Never Knew:
No theologian can adequately explain the nature of what took place within the Trinity on that day at Calvary. All we have is a cry of pain from a child who felt forsaken. Did it help that Jesus had anticipated that his mission on earth would include such a death? Did it help Isaac to know his father Abraham was just following orders when he tied him to the altar? What if no angel had appeared and Abraham had plunged a knife into the heart of his son, his only son whom he loved? What then? That is what happened on Calvary, and to the Son it felt like abandonment.
As the final days of Lent pass by, I want to reflect on what Jesus gave up for me. I want to use these days to prepare my heart for Easter.
This Easter will feel strange. We won’t gather in person on Sunday morning to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today!, sharing in the joy of the empty tomb that first Easter morning. I will miss that. Probably you will, too. Even though we’ll be worshipping in our homes, alone, He is still risen.
I pray this Easter will be especially meaningful for you.