Giving Up My Ego For Lent
- Friday, March 09, 2001
By Catherine Collingswood
Our marriage has been better and it has been worse and we've been through sickness and health. Four years ago, when resentment and anger choked off all communication, I suggested as gently as I could that we needed to separate. We are both thankful we were willing to work on our relationship and that God blessed those efforts by turning things around.
Still, old habits die hard, and we begin to think of ourselves first, feeling justified because we feel the other spouse doesn't appreciate us. It takes a periodic kick in the pants by an omniscient being to straighten us out, and hopefully we are heedful before our attitude invites in the monster of resentment and anger.
This Lenten season, I considered Proverbs 21:3, "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." As a little girl, my mother encouraged me to observe Lent by giving up a favorite item, candy or soda pop. As an adult, I tried to observe a healthy diet for 40 days and periodically fasted and prayed. This Lent I've convinced my husband that we ought to try to do something nice for each other once a day, something simple and considerate.
It's changed our relationship. A week ago we justified feeling angry and resentful when neither of us would kiss the other one goodbye first. How absurd! Here we were in that sinful place of waiting for the other guy to make the first move to "prove" our importance. I wish someone would invent a Shop Vac for the mind!
Making latte's with extra foam and cinnamon, baking a dessert or cooking a favorite dinner have been easy so far - my husband hasn't done or said anything that disturbed me. How willing am I going to be to observe my own Lenten commitment in a week if he "forgets" or tires of this discipline? After all, it is my family tradition, not his. If and when he does something that upsets me, will my sinful nature justify breaking this commitment to God because my feelings are "more important" than God's will? What if my husband bags the whole thing, and I'm still doing one nice thing a day for him? Will I be devoured by my own resentment? I have a few more weeks to find out.
One weekend we acted so childishly I found myself grinding my teeth, vacuuming every carpeted surface in our house and thinking to myself, "Just who does he think he is, God's gift to Catherine?" Then that soft still voice interrupted, "Well, yes." That was the last thing I wanted to hear.
The discipline of having a "humble servant attitude" doesn't come naturally to me. I'm bold. I take risks. I have a healthy ego. My friends admire my willingness to try new things. My husband finds some of that attractive, and I've been grateful when he balances my impulsiveness with caution (especially that time I dismantled the kitchen faucet). Yet I know that Jesus served God through serving humanity around Him, putting aside His ego. As a Christian, I'm obliged to park my ego too.
I'm committed. Despite my own ego and whatever ugly emotion tries to assert itself, when I perform each kind act, I will get on my knees and try my best to perform it with love. My ego could easily turn this into a contest -- it's going to be tempting at times. But a Lenten observance is a private matter between myself and God, who has gifted me with healing, laughter and the gift of this man. It doesn't matter whether my husband forgets his commitment. My attitude is as important as the actions I perform.
I suspect God is far more pleased with this sacrifice than giving up chocolate or white flour for 40 days. I'm hoping that a season of making coffee, washing cars, preparing bubble baths, buying little gifts and rubbing feet will soothe our marriage and maybe even establish good habits.
1 Samuel 15:22, Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:6 all underscore God's desire for obedience and mercy above sacrifice. As these weeks go by, I'm looking to be changed in my attitude toward my husband, which has often been quite unmerciful.
God is blessing us already with an excitement to delight one another. If He is willing to do this for us, He is willing to do this for your marriage too. Try it.
Easter is coming! Check out Crosswalk.com's Easter calendar to read about the meaning of each day in Holy Week as well as the legends of Easter symbols like dogwood trees and rabbits.
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