Only in the past few years have I intentionally recognized the season of Lent, but this year I was ready to enter into a 40 day exercise of discipline. I had it all worked out: I would fast from alcohol and sugary snacks over the next 6 weeks. What I didn’t realize is that I almost sabotaged Lent before it started.
The point of Lent is not to abstain from a habit so that you can demonstrate how disciplined you are. The Book of Common Prayer frames Lent as a time of repentance and transformation. Here is a good description from a guide that St. Bartholomew’s Church in Nashville provided:
It is a time of reflection, penitence, and abstention through fasting. In the act of sacrifice, attention is called to Jesus’ own sacrifice, traveling with him through the events and trials that lead up to his death.
I didn’t mean to approach Lent this year as a way to break my addiction to sugar (Girl Scout Cookies) or to drink less alcohol (can you drink less than two per week?). But I’m in a hurry, so I needed to do something. No beer? Easy. Less sweets? No problem.
So I thought I had settled on a path for Lent that would satisfy my desire to participate. Check it off the list; I was in.
Over the last few days, as Krista and I discussed what we would do for Lent, our conversations began to change. Instead of talking about going without coffee or beer, we began to ask the all-important question: What is the point? In some ways, I didn’t want to get to the point. I knew that involved something deeper than beer or chocolate. It involved the risky business of life-change, as we offer ourselves to God.
Finally, I came to a decision tonight (over a couple of beers with Brian) that Lent 2011 was to be a season of acquiring instead of abstaining.
For Lent, I am going to acquire a new practice of reading the Scriptures. I talk a lot about what the Bible says, but I rarely read it. My ironclad reasoning has been that I have plenty of other things to read about Scripture or that I simply don’t have time to go to the source when I’ve already read most of the Bible in years past. As I put this “on paper” I hear how arrogant it sounds, but I’m skilled at avoiding difficult things. Hebrews 4 tells us that the “word of God is alive and active,” which means that treating it like a any other book is to misread it.
In traditional Lenten terms, perhaps I can say that I’m abstaining from avoiding the Scriptures and allowing God to use them to pierce and divide in ways that are needful within me.
Feel free to ask me any time over the next six weeks how it’s going
As a launch point, I’ve found two helpful resources: Thomas Turner’s Lenten Guide at his web site, and the Lenten Guide that has been put together by Father Jerry and Father Dixon at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Nashville. I highly recommend both, with the latter being the more comprehensive of the two (As of this post, I’m still looking for the St. B’s guide to be posted at the church web site).