We didn’t observe Lent growing up. I guess it’s something most Baptists don’t do… I remember when I was nine or ten, one of my Catholic friends looked at my piece of chocolate sometime in March and said, “I can’t. I gave up chocolate for Lent.”
I’d never heard of Lent (I was well-educated, I swear!), so I asked her what she was talking about. She said you choose something bad for you to give up until Easter, “but I hardly ever eat chocolate, so it isn’t that hard.”
And that was that, because we were nine and had better things to do than discuss Church history or the spiritual significance of sacrifice.
[I guess I’m taking a pretty big risk, hanging a horseshoe upside down…]
In college, I was surrounded by so many different expressions of Christianity that it sometimes felt like a free-for-all. I could pick and choose my favorite parts of each (I still don’t know what’s wrong with this approach, as long as the tenets are there). I watched friends give up coffee, chocolate, and Facebook in pursuit of a closer walk with the Lord. In my cynical mind, I failed to understand the beauty of this tradition. It felt more like a cheapening of Christ’s sacrifice than a spiritual discipline: so giving up ice cream is your personal equivalent to Christ giving up his life? That doesn’t fly.
Last year, my Lenten season was a peculiar one. I was working three part-time jobs, so my hours were all over the place. I found long stretches of time when I could read my Bible, surf the web for interesting reading, and try to reconcile the fact that I believed in God’s power and Truth, but that I had serious fear of dying. For the first time, I felt compelled to observe Lent, and by “observe” I mean mostly “be aware.” Instead of giving something up, I would add.
Every night, I prayed to the Lord. I do this most nights, but usually in the comfort of my warm bed. For Lent, I decided to pray on my knees.
It wasn’t revolutionary; kneeling happens in every liturgical service. But for me, it was rare. As I feared a potential (huge) surgery, I needed to be reminded of my perfect posture in life: kneeling before the Creator, so that I could stand with his strength.
I had a hard time remembering at first. There were a few nights when I’d roll out of bed, groaning, to get on my knees and offer a few sentences to God. I don’t remember a word of what I prayed, but it’s the feeling of my knees on the rough rug that’s stayed in my mind.
~ ~ ~
This Lenten season, I have a lot of ideas brimming. I want to check my email and Facebook less (although work makes this a little difficult). I want to read a daily prayer or meditation, and not forget it throughout the day, like I normally do. I want to learn how to offer up every relationship – friends, parents, siblings, everyone – to be shaped by Someone other than myself.
I don’t see Lent as a time of deprivation. Instead, I see it as a time for intentional and careful reflection. And by giving up something material or adding on something meaningful, I’m hoping that the external will allow the internal to more fully connect with what it means to share in Christ’s suffering and resurrection.
[We found this cross off the beaten path as we climbed Mount Untersberg in Austria.]
4 Replies to “Lenten Growth”
When I first heard about Lent, I thought the word was “lent” as in, ‘I lent a book to someone,’ another form of ‘loaned’. It didn’t make much sense. But part of me wants to draw that meaning into it.
One year, I gave up watching TV/movies alone; that season, invitations to join others watching things drastically rose. Odd. A couple of times, I’ve given up all books that don’t pertain directly (and non-fictionally) to the Christian life.
But this year, for the first time, I feel a pull to ADD, not subtract. My life feels so simple already – there are lackings, not many extras. I think the “intentional and careful reflection” you mention really is the biggest point of it.
(I really like that cross, by the way.)
It’s funny to see how in different times of your life, what you need to give up/add is different. TV would’ve been a much bigger sacrifice when I was younger than it would be now.
Isn’t that cross cool? It was so beautiful in the mist.
What sorts of things do you think you’ll add?