7 Phrases You Could Give up for Lent

The season of Lent is about preparing ourselves for Easter by reflecting on our deep need for God. One way this has traditionally been done is through various forms of fasting. Catholics, for example, often refrain from eating meat (though they make an exception and eat fish on Fridays, which is why we have fish fry Fridays during Lent). Some choose to give up certain things like TV, Social media, or candy as a means of reflection. All of these are great ways to adjust our habits in order to focus on our need for the risen messiah.

Let me offer you one more. You could consider giving up a common phrase. Sometimes we simply speak without thinking, and by trying to eliminate one simple phrase from our vocabulary, it can draw attention to ways we are broken and in need of Jesus. Since we are in our 7 Habits series, here are 7 phrases you could consider!

1. "I'm only Human"

How often do we respond to our own failure and sin with "well, no one is perfect, I'm only human after all." It's true that we are flawed people, and that we will make mistakes, but God created us for more. 
"God created human in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created them” (Genesis 1:26–27) 
We were created to be God's representatives to creation, rulers on his behalf. When we say we are "only human" we deny the gravity of our human calling. Unfortunately, for many of us the phrase serves as an excuse for not pursuing maturity. It's as if we're saying "Why try, I'll never be perfect anyway." Yet God calls us to be holy and righteous, mature followers who respresent him in everything we do.

So perhaps this Lent, giving up the phrase "I'm only human" could be a meaningful way to pursue maturity.

2. "There's not enough"

Times have been tough, the schedule is maxed out, and there is way too much month left at the end of the money (not a typo). Sometimes we really don't have enough, but just because WE don't have enough doesn't mean there isn't enough.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; 
(Psalm 24:1)
Our second habit for lent is Sharing resources. All things belong to God, and God created all things, but we are often limited in our view of what can count as provision. Out of pride we neglect to ask for help. Out of weariness, we pass up opportunities to change our lifestyle and live within our means. Here's the truth, there is always enough, and when we claim that there isn't, we deny what God says as true and we start focusing on taking care of #1 rather than sharing the resources that were God's all along.

Perhaps giving up on the phrase "There's not enough" can be a way to reorient our thinking away from ourselves and onto God and his care of the world.

3. "It's all good"

I have found that, more often than not, when someone says "It's all good" it is not in fact all good. That statement is often a way that we avoid telling people that they've hurt our feelings or we ignore problems we've seen in our environment. The problem with "It's all good" is that it is all too often dishonest.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 
(Ephesians 4:25)
We can only trust one another when we are honest with one another. Trust takes work to maintain and that work often includes uncomfortable conversations. Our habit of cultivating trust may require us to eliminate "it's all good" from our vocabulary as a means of reminding us to face the challenges for the sake of trust.

4. "I'm not being fed"

We come to church in need of spiritual nourishment. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is a wonderful thing when we show up to the body of Christ in a posture of need. The problem that occurrs is when we think our needs will be met in a vacuum. When we expect that we will be nourished by only listening to a message or simply showing up without engaging with the community we deny the way Christ designed us to thrive.
[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
When we nourish others and intentionally serve them by expecting and inviting them to grow and be fed, we will end up fed ourselves. But when we look to others to be the ones who feed us and only serve if there will be some form of appreciation or repayment, then we miss our own opportunity for nourishment.

By removing "I'm not being fed" from our vocabulary, we remind ourselves to see our own malnourishment as an opportunity to come alongside someone else.

5. "Good enough"

Much like "I'm only human", saying "good enough" is a way we deny the reality of who God designed us to be. Sometimes we will fall short, we will make mistakes, but when we settle there we deny our responsibility in faith. We are invited to do everything as a servant of God's kingdom, 
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Colossians 3:23)
We don't work hard in order to earn some prize we deserve, but we value the effort because we believe we are the people through whom God is restoring the world. It's about who we are, our identity as Christ-followers. Saying something is "good enough" is not the same as saying "I tried my best." All too often we stop and claim something is "good enough" because we are afraid that our best will not be enough. But when we remember that this work is for God it changes our perspective. Success or failure is not our burden to bear, but effort is ours to carry.

Consider how eliminating "good enough" from your vocabulary could invite you to focus on your effort over your success.

6. "Should"

"Should" is an invitation to shame, judgement, and bitterness. When we say "I really should read my bible more" it rarely changes the behavior, it just reminds us to feel ashamed of what we aren't doing well. When we say "Those people should read their bibles more" we are judging others as if we are standing in their shoes and know better. Now, we don't simply tolerate poor behavior, but for every high standard we set for ourselves and others, we also are invited to an equivalent level of grace when we fall short. 
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)
When we remember our own need for forgiveness we are better able to forgive others. By eliminating the world "should" from our vocabulary we will start to notice just how hard we are on ourselves and others, inviting us to give more grace.

7. "It's all going to hell in a handbasket anyway"

Sometimes the world just feels too broken. We look at all these messed-up things in our world and think, it's out of our hands we should just put our heads down and survive the brokenness until we can enjoy a restored work after we die. Friends this is not the promise Jesus offered us or the kingdom he is building. It's not all going to hell in a handbasket, it's all being restored. Read the end of the book...
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

(Revelation 21:1-5)
We no longer live as hopeless people who only see the brokenness, but as people of hope who see the brokenness through the lens of what it's all becoming. Because of this we do the work of revealing that hope to the world around us by actually making our community a better place to live.

So, consider replacing the hopeless "it's all going to hell in a handbasket" with the hopeful "See, I am making all things new."
If you've read all the way to this point then good on ya! I pray that something really stood out to you and as a result lent will be a meaningful time of reflection and preparation. I am looking forward to being with you in person and/or in spirit on Sunday.

Ryan Rovito

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