March 5, 2014

Lent - Reevaluated


(via Twitter)


I get tired of Lent.

Before you jump to any quick conclusions about this statement and before you get all of my former pastors on speed dial for an immediate intervention, hear me out.

The Easter season is my favorite season on the Christian calendar because this is what it’s all about. Mourning the death of Christ and celebrating his resurrection. Shouting out to death “Where is your sting?!” Recognizing our need for repentance and feeling the magnitude of God’s grace. Everything that makes a Christian sound crazy comes out in the season of Easter, yet, we believe: Lord help our unbelief.

Still, I get tired of Lent. Or better yet, I get tired of what Lent has become in modern Christian circles. I remember being fourteen years old and for the first time in my life, I was exposed to an Ash Wednesday service. It was a little confusing, somber, but powerful. I remember wanting to take the period of fasting seriously. To use the 40 days as a time of reflection and draw nearer to the God whom I serve. I wanted to understand what Lent was and why it was so important in the history of Christianity. After the service ended, I was asked several times, in sing-songy voices, “So what are you giving up for Lent?” When I wouldn’t say anything, I remember the good-natured teasing and the competition for who was “giving up the hardest thing” began. In the years since then, this gets repeated almost every year. In college, I have become so aggravated when I have overheard girls say, “I’m giving up sugar, all forms of sugar, because it’s a distraction in my life. And if I lose a few pounds along the way, so be it!” Or the familiar Facebook status, “Giving up Facebook for lent! If you need me, call me, text me,  email me, or tweet me for a response!” This is always followed by another status 40 days later, “SO good to be back on Facebook! You never realize how much you connect with your friends through Facebook until you give it up!” Everything about these exchanges rubs me the wrong way.

Now I have to put a disclaimer in here because disclaimers are just how the world works these days…but in no way do I think that giving up sugar or Facebook or whatever is a bad thing. I’m not trying to make fun of these people or discredit their dedication. Not at all. My complaint comes from my own failures, recognizing how I have contorted Lent into something that it is not.

There are two things that I cringe at a little every year. First, the public announcing of what everyone is giving up. During this season, I am often reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:16-18, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” This verse has always compelled me to be quiet during Lent, to use it as a time of reflection instead of a time of public declarations of righteousness. I have often told a small circle of friends what I am abstaining from during Lent in order to be held accountable, but I struggle to make sure that I tell them out of humility, not the desire to “show off”. Oh how hard it is to be humble when you’re trying to be humble.

 The second thing that I often question is the use of the term “giving up”. Rather, I wish our terminology would change to something like, “I am replacing social media with time to focus on reading the Bible” or “I am replacing sugar with the need to crave spiritual truths”. This might sound weird, I know, it sounded weird to me as I typed it…but Lent is so much more than “giving up”. Lent is replacing distractions in our lives with solid truths. Replacing things that get in the way between Christ and us in order that we may know him better. Lent is more than a diet or a breaking a bad habit. It is not a season of bragging about our self-control, but a season where we are painfully aware of our need for a Savior.

I get tired of Lent.

I get tired of seeing the Buzzfeed quiz “What should you give up for Lent?” … as if it’s a game and you need the right sacrifice to win. I get tired of feeling inadequate if I don’t give up pasta, sugar, coffee, air, water, and the ability to walk every year. I get tired of questioning my commitment to Christ if I “give up” Facebook and then forget and log in to check my messages. I get tired of Lent when it becomes an accomplishment and a contest.


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I want Jesus. I want to be desperate to know God. I want to feel the scars on His hands and feet and know that I am loved more than I can imagine even though I have nothing to offer, nothing to contribute, and nothing to bring to the table. I want to know that I am human, that I am fragile, and that I am redeemed. This year, to be honest, I don’t know what Lent will look like for me, but I know what I want it to look like. I want Lent to be a season of reflection, a time when I shift the focus from who I am to whose I am. I want this season to be a time of worship, humility, and grace.  I have barely dived into the meaning of Lent, I am just taking the baby steps of understanding this season…but it so much more than giving something up. This season, I am challenging myself to find the meaning, to understand the tradition, and to recognize my need for a Savior. No diet plans included. No gimmicks thrown in for good measure. I just want Jesus.