Ever notice how what God gives to each of us, He expects us to in turn, give to others? Things like love, understanding, faithfulness, kindness, forgiveness, and compassion?
Psalm 119:73-80 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):
Your hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn your
commandments. May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. O may Your loving kindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight. May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; but I shall meditate on your precepts. May those who fear You turn to me, even those who know Your testimonies. May my heart be blameless in Your statutes, so that I will not be ashamed.
A number of years ago I was first challenged to "give up something" for Lent. Not taking it very seriously at first, I chose to give up "manipulation." With that, God quickly brought me to a place where I realized how serious my "addiction to manipulating others to get my way" truly was. Allowing God to transform me during Lent brought me along an interesting stretch of road as I chose to continue to follow His lead through a series of life altering shifts.
The next year brought me to the understanding that I was relying too much on my "God given right" to ask for, and receive forgiveness when I would all too often act according to my own personal desires. Learning to ask Him for permission first (instead of waiting until I needed forgiveness), led me to a stronger heart for forgiving my enemies. The path also led to more readily being able to forgive myself and accept God's forgiveness. It should probably be no surprise that this made me a lot more aware of the need to seek forgiveness for my errors from those "enemies."
Following this path brought me out of an almost constant state of resentment, arrogance, and some amount of self-righteousness. It quite naturally gave me an even stronger desire to build bridges and restore relationships in Christ. By last year, God was challenging me to stop mounting my own defenses, and to stop judging others. He urged me to trust Him to shield me as He had promised He would. So I gave up self-defense for Lent.
I am still working at following. It is safe to say there is always another step, another twist to the path God lights for us. This year He is calling me to be less critical of others, to have more gratitude for more things in my life, and to love and affirm all that I can. This has been tough for me in a world where we have all gotten so good at finding fault almost everywhere. There is no end to what is wrong with the world and many of the people in it; but this is not what God has called us to seek. Is it?