Lent: The Way It’s Supposed To Be
“To grow, you must be willing to let your present and future be totally unlike your past. Your history is not your destiny.” –Alan Cohen
“Lent is supposed to be a time when we review our spiritual life, think again about what it means to be a follower of Christ, reset the compass of our discipleship and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival. But often we just give up biscuits.
So writes Stephen Cottrell in the book I Thirst. It’s funny how Lent has become a sort of religious version of New Year’s resolutions. We seem to have mixed a custom of giving things up with our society’s obsession with self-improvement, and blurred the meaning, turning it into a once year detox or something. But Lent is not simply about giving things up like sugar or chocolate or this or that. It’s about denying ourselves some of the essentials of everyday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-connecting with God and his purposes in our world; about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any case.
If a Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and unshakeable knowledge that we are human — we are but dust, and to dust we shall return. But that to be human is enough. We live under the loving gaze of God.”
I appreciated these words of my friend Barry this year more than ever. Lent always has been one of my favorite seasons in the church year. Some dread it. I always welcome it as a time of readjustment, focus and clarity. In the past years, I gave up things like fried food, carbs or coffee. But that only proved an annoyance and a distraction, and it never seemed to really get to the heart of what Lent is all about in the first place. Yes, I might be a bit thinner come Easter, but I was still the same person. This year, I won’t give up any of those things. I instead gave up something upon which I had come to depend too much for my happiness, and in many cases, it wasn’t really making me happy at all. But giving it up requires more than just discipline. It requires trust in God and others that all of my needs and loves will be satisfied in God alone.
Lent is now underway, but it’s not too late to celebrate Lent the way it is supposed to be. Give up the thing that is keeping you from living the life you’ve always wanted, or add the things that will make your life all that it is supposed to be. Don’t waste Lent by giving up things that don’t require you to depend on God. That’s actually an offense to the season. A good and holy Lent is one that has little to do with rule keeping and more to do with transformational experiences.
What are you giving up that would actually require you to change your life and to trust God like never before?