Not a Self-Improvement Program

March 5, 2022

I’m always tempted to use Lent as a self-improvement program: a time to give up judging others, eat healthier, quit wasting my money on coffee shop treats to give it to charity instead, etc. Then I remember that Jesus didn’t go into the desert for 40 days for a self-improvement course. He went to the desert to soak in God’s words, “You are my beloved Son,” and discern what God was calling him to next—which turned out to be the beginning of his teaching and healing ministry.

In some ways, it feels easier and more familiar to use these 40 days to improve myself in the way my culture understands it: kind of like a re-branding that will make me newer, shinier, and more beautiful come Easter. At least there are programs to follow along those lines. But I’m fairly certain self-improvement wasn’t on Jesus’ mind as he embarked upon his desert retreat. And I’m reasonably certain that listening as God tells me I am a beloved daughter and listening for what God is calling me to do next might not be as straightforward as steps like “clear the house of alcohol” or “delete your Facebook account.”

Those things might help us better listen to God, but the focus of the season should be on what God wants to do in us and through us, not on our own self-improvement so that we make ourselves more attractive in the eyes of society.

For reflection: As Lent gets underway, sit with the questions “What do you most want out of this Lent?” and “What do you most need from God?” Be bold and ask God for those things! If you journal, write them down and return to it after Easter to see how God answered your prayers.

To Pray: Lord, what do YOU want to do for me this Lent? Help me to accept the gifts you want to give.