A few years ago, I gave up gossip for Lent. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I was raised as a die-hard, ultra-conservative Southern Baptist, and trying something new in the spiritual realm was a bit scary.
However, since learning about the tradition of fasting during the weeks leading up to Easter in order to concentrate more fully on spiritual things, I’d been intrigued. So after God began nudging me toward a Lenten fast, I prayed, “Okay, Lord, I’ll do it. What do you want me to give up? Fries? Soft drinks?” (I thought I could lose a few pounds and get more spiritual. Definitely a win-win situation, from my vantage point.)
Then the Holy Spirit said, “Give up gossip.”
Well . . . that should be easy, I thought. I never talk about other people. And I don’t like it when other people do. Sure, that’ll be a cinch!
Just call me “Self-righteous Sally.” On second thought, don’t.
I didn’t realize how addicted I was, until I had to give it up. Day one of my fast, I noticed uncomfortably that I really missed gossip: with girlfriends (although we usually called them “prayer requests”), from entertainment magazines (they’re not called “guilty pleasures” for nothing), and from television shows like “Access Hollywood.”
I had always justified my need for the latest celebrity news by telling myself that I was simply keeping tabs on the arts, my chosen field. The problem was that gossip didn’t just inform my viewing. I also regularly read Internet articles about celebrities, which fueled my desire to watch shows and read magazines about them. Those habits made me less content with my body and material possessions, as well as the level of obscurity I “enjoyed” in my career.
God chose that time to show me clearly how I had let things like gossip slide into my life. After all, I had told myself, gossip was not lust or murder or adultery. It was a tiny slip-up, and everyone should be allowed one or two a day, right?
Clearly, God has a lot of patience with me. Once I got past rationalizations, excuses, and justification, I confessed my sin and asked the Lord to forgive me. He also used the season of Lent to heal a relationship which had been strained by gossip.
Jesus once declared that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Similarly, I’ve found that spiritual disciplines such as fasting and silence don’t just draw me closer to God. They also create more space in my often-cluttered heart and mind for life-giving pursuits.
This year, as I once again attempt to shed false idols and worldly desires, I excitedly prepare to be wowed by the resurrection story. And I say, along with believers all over the globe: “Empty me, Jesus, of everything sinful. Forgive me of my trespasses, and fill me with all that is holy.”
Image by Jessica Lucia. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by High Calling Contributing Editor, Dena Dyer, author of the upcoming book, Wounded Women of the Bible, due to release in July 2013 by Kregel Publishers.
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