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I Give Up

My most radical Lent

Every year for as long as I can remember, I've given up something for Lent. As a child, I routinely surrendered chocolate, and many years I've given up sweets all together. I thought last year was the hardest ever. I gave up caffeine and candy.

So this year as Lent approached, I wondered what to do. I wasn't really up for surrendering coffee again. Chocolate was too easy. This year I sensed God calling me to do something more challenging.

Just give up, he kept whispering. Give up.

Submission has been a running topic of debate in my house lately. I don't do it well, as I've come to discover in some not so pleasant field experiments, like, say, my marriage. And yet since last year—Good Friday to be exact—I've sensed God running a thread on the theme of submission through my life.

Last Good Friday, the culmination of 40 days of giving up food stuffs so I could experience God more tangibly, I had a life-changing revelation: "Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. . . . Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity" (John 12:24–25).

Somehow in giving up food and drink that I like—a small but specific dying to self—God helped me gain a bigger sense of the deeper dying that needs to happen in me. There's still so much I hold onto.

So this year, instead of giving up food and drink, I have merely given up.

Slowly—painstakingly, actually—I'm allowing God to show me the parts of my life that I've been unwilling to submit to him. Where am I a hardened kernel, Lord? Where are you waiting for me to soften up so you can begin to bloom something in me?

God asks us to die to ourselves because he has something so much more glorious to raise up. Why, then, do I resist this? Why don't I just die already?

Because dying's hard, and it's not fun.

Like the apostle Paul, I sigh: "What a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24–25).

I can't share my list of specific surrenders I've made this Lent, which is unsettlingly to me, who prides herself on being productive and having noteworthy achievements (Oops, I just let one slip out of the bag!). But I can share this: In submitting myself to God, I'm letting him do what he wants. I'm letting go of my agenda for my life as best I know how. And I'm finding that God is patient and gracious. He reveals to me as much as he knows my proud, little heart can bear.

How about you? Where is God calling you to die so he can birth something new?

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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