I am not part of a church that regularly practices Lent, but the last few years I thought it would be good for me to give up something for 40 days, helping me to see my addictions and dependencies. In our indulgent, instant-gratification society, I saw the value of voluntarily depriving myself of something in order to focus more on who God is and how much I need him.
When I first started practicing Lent, I followed everyone else's suggestions and gave up a certain food or media. Those experiences were fairly useful in showing me deep-seated habits and thus made me more aware of my need for my Savior as a result.
But last year I took time to pray about what I should give up for Lent. I asked God to show me a dependency that truly was hindering my relationship with him. I thought about foods, but I'm a fairly disciplined eater, so that didn't seem to be a problem area for me. I'm also not a big media junky, so I didn't feel compelled to go that route again. As I continued to ponder it before God, I had the strong impression that I was to give up worry for 40 days.
When I told my husband my decision, he looked at me skeptically. "Aren't you supposed to give up something you enjoy for Lent?" He had a good point, but since I wasn't tied to any church tradition anyway, I felt I could practice Lent any way I wanted. And once the idea of giving up worry for 40 days began to take hold, I felt stronger and stronger that was the course for me.
The funny thing was that if you'd asked me if I was a worrier, I would have said no. I have a pretty laissez faire attitude toward difficulties. I've usually faced the big things in life with trust rather than panic. So I could understand my husband's attitude about me giving up worry. What's the big deal about that? But I felt the nudge as strongly as I've felt anything, so I went with it.
Although I felt this conviction pretty strongly, nothing prepared me for the next 40 days, which turned out to be some of the most amazing, faith-filled days of my life. And to my surprise, I found out that worry has been one of my most deep-seated, tenacious sins.
My fear of violent men consumed me.
Although I faced the big things with courage and trust, I didn't realize how I carried the burden of all the little things with constant fear and uncertainty. And many of them were wrapped up in fear of violent men. For example, within the first week of giving up worry I took a walk in a park near our house. As I was walking along the path, I came to a section that followed a road. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man in a truck was slowly keeping pace with me. Now, let me reassure you that this is a very safe park in a very safe community and that there were other people around. Nevertheless, noticing something like this would usually have put me in an all-out panic and I would have taken off running the opposite way. All my natural instincts were screaming at me to do this. But the first thing that came to mind was, I gave up worry for Lent. I do not need to worry about this. My body began to relax. While I was still aware and certainly not trying to be naïve, I refused to allow the worry of what-if to consume me and take away the joy of my walk. When I turned the corner, the truck went on. I realized in that moment that my almost daily fears of men were mostly unfounded.
A few days later, my husband left on a two-week mission trip. Being alone in my house at night has been a long-time, deep-seated terror for me. For years whenever my husband left overnight, I'd double check that all doors and windows were locked and even stacked things at the door at night. I never wanted to go to bed when he was gone, so I'd stay up way later than I should and watch mindless TV or surf the computer until the wee hours so I didn't have to turn out all the lights and go to sleep. I'd finally drop to sleep when I simply couldn't stay up any longer. I knew this wasn't healthy, but I simply didn't know how to get over it.