Walking Our Faith: Free yourself to be closer to God | SummitDaily.com

Walking Our Faith: Free yourself to be closer to God

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Once a week, I take Buddy, my 150-pound Newfoundland, to the dog park in Breckenridge and let him run. He enjoys chasing other dogs who are chasing balls. He has such a look of joy to be free of his leash. It fills my heart.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, I will serve as a Eucharistic minister for the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Mary’s. This Mass signals the start of our 40 days of Lent, a sacred journey that leads us to the holiest date in our liturgical year, the Easter vigil.

I’ve had an unintentional relationship with Lent. Until last year, giving up something, such as chocolate, felt like a sacrifice without meaning.

We are told to “deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus.” But what does it mean to fast as Jesus fasted when he went into the desert for 40 days, the journey we are meant to replicate during Lent?

What is the purpose of our sacrifice? I believe it is not an act of random denial but can be a bold declaration of freedom and trust in God.

Last year, I gave up alcohol, specifically my nightly consumption of red wine, for Lent. To be honest, I’d made the same sacrifice in previous years and never lasted more than a week.

But last year was different. I actually stuck with it for the entire 40 days. And it completely changed my relationship with alcohol.

I will give up red wine once again this year, but I’m doing it with a new understanding of what it means to sacrifice for our 40-day journey into the wilderness with Christ.

I believe when we make this choice, being completely honest with ourselves and with God, the thing we choose will be one that is an impediment in our relationship with God, our relationship with our family or friends or with ourselves.

God doesn’t need our sacrifice, but he appreciates our willingness to set aside anything that blocks our view of him. To do so isn’t always easy. It does require that we trust that God’s plan is better than our own, that God will strengthen us when we are tempted to succumb.

The three temptations offered to Christ provide important examples of finding meaning in denial. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying, denying the self on one hand of food but on the other hand removing himself from society, focusing his mind and spirit on the three-year ministry he was about to begin.

At the end of 40 days, Jesus was offered three things that can inhibit a closer relationship with God. First he’s offered food and drink, something intended to nourish our bodies, but when consumed in excess, can do the opposite.

Second Jesus was offered a promise of safety. How often do we allow worry about the future to envelop our lives? How do we learn to plan for the future and trust God at the same time?

The third and final temptation was the allure of power. How often do we allow our desire for popularity or the need to fit in sway our choices and tempt us to keep up with the crowd?

During our annual 40-day journey of Lent, we are asked to accompany Christ. Perhaps it would better if we asked Jesus to accompany us as we enter our spiritual wilderness, to guide us through the shadows.

God made each of us with a unique purpose. But choices we’ve made along the way might have clouded our understanding of our true identity. Lent is the perfect time to free ourselves from whatever is obscuring our vision.

Our experience of Lent will be different from year to year. We are in a different place in our spiritual journey than we were last year. So each year, we are asked to pay attention again. Lent is the perfect time for prayerful reflection, asking God to renew his purpose for us.

If we enter these 40 days with the intention to draw closer to God, to be willing to let go in order to find freedom, I believe we will find ourselves transformed. Be brave, my friend.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

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