Lent used to be my least favorite time of the Christian year. Traditionally, many Christians give something up or take something on in order to grow closer to God leading up to Easter. It seemed so forced to hurry and find something reasonable to give up. Sadly, what I gave up had specific criteria to fit into. It needed to be something that sounded hard to others, so I looked good, but something that actually wasn’t a big deal to me. For instance, I could give up chocolate and replace it with peanut butter. Sounds hard for many, but I really…like… peanut butter. Or I could log off of Facebook for 40 days. The world will think I’m amazing! In reality I’ll just use Instagram and Snapchat more often.
Do you see why I struggled with Lent?
Lent has nothing to do with our spotless public image. It has everything to do with remembering the sacrifice of Christ. Lent is about our humility and God’s grace.
This year, let’s not use Lent to gain likes. Can I tell you a pet-peeve of mine? I call them Public Displays of Awesomeness, or PDAwesomeness. I’m talking about the temptation to compliment or thank people so that EVERYONE else sees it. In today’s world, it seems as if the good deed didn’t happen if the world wasn’t alerted on social media.
Facebook is probably guilty of broadcasting the most PDAwesomeness infractions. We tell people how great they are, which is kind, but why not say it in a private message and not a wall post. Our public thank-yous are often an attempt to gain favor with someone in the sight of many more. We try to look good. PDAwesomeness. Thank-yous are wonderful, but don’t make them the reward. In Matthew 6:1-6 Jesus says,
“Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”
The homeless were still served without a public thank you to the three people who went with me. I still got the surprise tickets to the Hawkeye game in the mail, even if I don’t post on the giver’s wall about it. And I still went to support my neighbor’s children at their basketball game without dropping the line of how good they did…so everyone knew I was there.
(Disclaimer: I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Right now, my Facebook “memories” are putting me to shame as to how often I’ve done this.)
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about thanking entire groups/communities or updating people who supported a fundraiser or something. That’s a great way to keep people informed, celebrate with groups, or remind them how they can get involved. In short, if it could be in a private message, keep it there. PDAwesomeness becomes a reward of its own.
This has EVERYTHING to do with Lent. If we aren’t careful, Lent becomes about looking good to people instead of presenting ourselves, broken, to God.
We can remind everyone that we are giving up pop and how painful it is. We can tell everyone that we are reading scripture every day and how hard it is to make time. Or we can go off social media and make sure we remind our friends every day how much better off we are. We have probably received our reward when we announce such things. PDAwesomeness.
This year can be different. Let’s give up Public Displays of Awesomeness and exchange them for personal displays of God’s love. This Lent can be truly transformative as God works in and through us. People will notice what God is doing and God will get the glory, not us.
Let’s be clear, saying thank-you more often is a great undertaking for Lent. Go buy some cards at the dollar store and get busy writing! The warmth of a personal thank you is refreshing to the reader’s soul. The Facebook audience just rolls their eyes, anyway…then hits “Like.”
Maybe Lent isn’t so bad after all.