From Olive Tree Staff: Christopher Coleman
I have never attended a church which observed Lent, but I did participate in a three week fast several years ago so I understand the benefits that depriving oneself can bring to spiritual health. A few years ago around this time of year I was in a funk. My life was going along just fine, but it felt empty. I didn’t feel the passion for God that I had enjoyed in college. Not that He was distant or I was walking off the path, but there was definitely something missing. So I started asking for advice from One who knows.
I go through phases where I listen to music nearly constantly. I stream Pandora internet radio in the car. I listen to hours of music at a time from dozens of genres in my iTunes library. Even when I am away from electronics, I have a soundtrack playing through my head. I listen to music to connect to this mental playlist. Therefore, I was doubly surprised when after some prayer, I felt that God was leading me to give up secular music for Lent. It seemed like an odd request but I decided to try it. Secular music only made up about 60% of my iTunes library of a few thousand songs at the time, so I had plenty of other options.
Within a week I noticed the difference. It was as if a dense haze that I hadn’t noticed was wafting away on the breeze. I realized I hadn’t been focusing on God daily or even hourly, like I needed to. I had, ever so gradually, been drowning out the Spirit with the secular music I listened to night and day. By replacing country twangs about being a cowboy and irish folk songs about being a sailor with a diverse group of fellow Christians worshiping God in my ears, I was able to worship better myself.
After Easter, I started listening to secular music again, but I have been careful ever since to moderate my intake. I tend to start out my day with hymns while I do my morning devotion, listen to contemporary praise/worship in the car to work and then intersperse my favorite Christian rock bands with my playlists throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes I feel stressed after work and I think that a good hard rock playlist will ease my nerves. But instead, I find myself getting frustrated with drivers on my way home and then becoming distracted when I get there so that I don’t accomplish much. If, instead, I listen to some slow quiet hymns, I can relax for the half hour drive and am ready to tackle my to do list when I get home.
I will always be open to the kind of refocus that Lent give me in the future no matter what season it is. And I will work hard not to forget the lesson I learned from this experience. Whether you observe Lent with your church or not, ask yourself the question: is there anything God would have me give up temporarily so that I can learn moderation and draw closer to Him?