February 13 was Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent has not been something I was necessarily raised to recognize or have consistently been in tune with throughout the years, but recently, through the positive influence of close friends, I have grown more aware of the profound impact these weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday have on my faith.
Last year, I decided to disable the 3G network on my phone, eliminating constant access to the internet, emails, and online texting apps. It wasn’t a bad thing to do, giving up such a mode of convenience. I found other things to do on the commute to and from work and made use of every free wireless signal bouncing around the city. However, I really wasn’t intentional about what I did instead of tapping into my 3G network. I simply gave it up. I made a sacrifice.
One thing life-experience has been teaching me about spirituality as of late is that sacrifice and practice go hand-in-hand. It’s not enough to just give something up.
You can’t just fast meals and watch TV instead of eating. You can’t just give up your wealth than crash at your friend’s place, bumming off of him in the spirit of “having less.”
This does nothing for your spirituality.
When Gandhi fasted, he prayed for the unity of India. He fasted until civil unrest was exchanged for brotherly peace. Shane Claiborne didn’t simply write books about social justice and helping the poor and the Biblical economy of providing for each other’s needs, he lives it and began a movement with other people that promotes these values.
In order to move forward in my spirituality, I must have sacrifice and practice.
My busy lifestyle makes sacrifice an extremely convenient spiritual practice for me, which means it’s not spiritual at all. It’s incredible when I can just take a break or sit down and do nothing or wake up with no responsibility awaiting me that day. And if I do give something up like coffee or my 3G bloodline, it’s easy to find alternatives. I feel nothing. It’s like not noticing you don’t have your wristwatch until you want to check the time. And even then, you just reach for your phone or look around for the nearest time-telling contraption.
So this year, I’m reading a book. It’s a devotional book written by pastors from all over Hong Kong. I was introduced to it when I was attending a service at the The Vine during my trip to Hong Kong. Reading this requires me to sacrifice a daily increment of time and to practice reading, reflecting and praying Scripture. I have felt the lack of both of these things in my recent spiritual life.
I’ve also started listening to worship music when I’m in my room. Another practice. And I’ve given up lazing around under my sheets after I’ve already been in my bed for 8 hours. Another, though small, sacrifice.
Spirituality takes work. It is not easy. Nothing worth having ever is. I’ve been ever so subtly letting my spirituality slip to the wayside, and recent events have revealed this to me.
While I was traveling over Chinese New Year, visiting old friends and experiencing new places, God reminded me of so many things that I have forgotten. Of joy and freedom that I could be walking in right now but am not. He did this through people, through creation, through experiences. And when I was introduced to Journey and reminded that the season of Lent is starting, I knew it was time. Time to begin a journey through a familiar childhood story about a man who gave His life for me. A man who loves me.
“Victoria, God loves you so much.” These were some of the last words Indira, one of the staff members of the Bali Surf House (the hostel I stayed at in Bali) said to me before I took off on my motorbike, laden down with two huge backpacks full of things I had acquired during my travels. Those backpacks weren’t the only things that were full. My heart had acquired a lot as well.
So now, friends, I’m on a journey. It’s rather appropriate that Lent began right around the same time the Chinese New Year did. That means something. I’ve been given a new start I may not have realized I even needed.
Spirituality is sacrifice and practice. It is in the light of this revelation that I move forward on my journey.