The other day at work one of my coworkers asked me if I’d thought about what I was giving up for Lent. Being the A+ Christian I am, I responded that I was not even sure when Lent started this year. (Cheat sheet: I googled it just now and it starts on Valentine’s Day so good luck giving up chocolate.)
I’ve written about Lent before in this article on Relevant – and about how I learned that Lent isn’t about us giving up a bad habit or being perfect Christians, but instead a reminder of our dependence on God and need for a Savior who is perfect because we’re not. But as I’m beginning to think about Lent this year and what I want to surrender to God, one concept really sticks out to me.
I spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what other people think of me.
I worry about what just about everyone thinks of me. I stress about if my boss thinks I work hard enough. I worry that the person I cut off in traffic thinks I’m an asshole. I worry about if people at church think I dress well. I even fear that my own friends don’t really like me that much. If I’m being brutally honest, my fear of what others think has become my own personal prison.
And unfortunately, I have a very active imagination which usually results in me thinking way worse things about myself, way more often than even my worst enemy might. Not only do I put myself through (unnecessary) anxiety when I do this – I also completely disregard God’s opinion of me and dethrone Him in the process. By spending all my energy trying to impress others and constantly worrying about other people’s approval first, I basically tell God that His opinion isn’t all that important. I essentially say to Him, “Well, I know you say I’m loved and adored, but if this person doesn’t like me then I don’t know if it matters that you think that.”
And here’s a real hard truth to swallow: if I tell God that what he says isn’t true because of another person, I’m calling Him a liar. Woah. Not good, my friends.
But here’s the thing. I am exhausted of trying to constantly live up to other people’s approvals that are usually only figments of my imagination anyways. I’ve tasted the freedom that comes with living only to glorify God and caring about His opinion alone – I want more of that. I’d love to say that for Lent I’m just going to completely stop caring what other people think. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy?
But what I’ve learned through life and through past Lenten seasons, is that when we give something up we have to replace it with something else, otherwise we end up going back to the old thing. That’s a biblical concept in many ways and it definitely applies here. So with God’s grace, I want to pray instead of worry. Instead of worrying that my friend is upset with me or thinks I’m annoying or any of the other lies that anxiety plagues me with, I want to stop and pray for that person or myself or even the weather – whatever works. I want to directly replace the fear, lies and worry that can only come from the enemy, with direct communication with the God of the universe.
Side bar: do you ever think about how crazy it is that we small humans get to directly talk to the GOD of the UNIVERSE??? And he listens. Wild.
And to be honest, this isn’t just a Lent thing. This is something I want to start right away. This is something I need now – to live in freedom, to experience peace and to take hold of the joy God calls each and every one of His children to. We get a God that tells us in the Bible so many different ways that he sees us. He calls us loved, delighted in, children, beautiful, etc. I want His opinion to be the one that defines my life – not my family, my friends, crazy LA drivers, or coworkers. And if we believe that He created us and knows us completely and perfectly, then His opinion is the only true one anyways.