Who is in control?
Let me share with you a piece of great writing by Dr. Steven Selvaraju found on today church bulletin to remind myself that Lent isn’t about denial, but is about transformation.
When we look around us today, we see many people reading self-help books or participating in workshops which they think they will empower them to change for the better. “Self improvement” and “self-fullfillment” are popular catch words. Truly ‘Change’ has become fashionable these days.Also common are sayings such as “To change the way you are, change who you think you are” or “Whatever you want in your life, the key to success is to transform yourself”. The overarching idea here is that we have the ability to take control our lives, to transform it and to transform our own destiny.
As we enter into the first week of Lent, many of us are also determined to experience some form of change. One of the main ways we try to achieve this is by practising acts of self-denial. And so, the question that is often asked is, “What am I giving up for Lent?” It is, no doubt, an important question. The difficulty arises however, when we start to think that self-denial itself, that is what or how much we want to give up for God, is what Lent is all about. But Lent is not only about self-denial. It is mainly about us being transformed by God, especially in those areas of our lives where we are acting irresponsibly. Acts of self-denial are means by which we empty ourselves so that God can take control of our lives.
In the Gospel reading this Sunday, we read how the devil tried to tempt Jesus to achieve or obtain whatever he wants by his own power (Matt. 4:1-11). The devil was trying to tell Jesus, “Don’t depend on God. You have the ability and power to take control of your life and to determine your own destiny.” Jesus, however, denied himself what that was promised by the devil –physical possessions and pleasure, power and authority, not because he wanted to show how good he was or what great self-control he had. Rather, Jesus knew that his very existence and mission on earth depended on his emptying himself totally so that God can take complete control of his life.
So, the question for Lent is not “What am I giving up” but instead “What can I do to allow God to transform me?” The answer will depend greatly, of course, on who we think is really in control- God or us.