Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dryer Lent

Lent: The 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.

I dislike rules, especially rules that are deemed "for my own good". This is one of my hang ups with traditionally practiced Christianity. I think the focus is too much on "what to do" instead of the heart of the Man whom we are to emulate.

I have some great friends who are Catholic. I would be a terrible Catholic and yet I am intrigued by the idea of lent. I have always seen lent as this showy kind of thing you do to prove to God that you really mean this whole "christian" thing. I have seen lent as a "rule" contrived to make you a better person.

I recently read an article that challenged my thinking. Jesus spent 40 days in the dessert being tested. It was then when we could see what kind of Christ he wasn't, he was tested for our sake. The world was flooded for 40 days in Noah's time, to wash away sin. We could think of Lent as a way to prepare our hearts for Easter, a time when our sin's were washed away for good.

The dessert is such a great picture of deprivation. This is not something we Americans do very often, deprive ourselves. We eat when we are hungry, when our clothes wear out we get new ones, we sleep in air conditioned/heated houses. If something hurts, we medicate it. We don't ever choose to go through...gasp...discomfort, at least if we can help it. Lent is about choosing denial.

We can choose to live, for 40 days out of the year, a metaphor. By choosing not to eat meat on Friday, we can acknowledge our true needs versus wants. By choosing to abstain from something, we can die to ourselves. For 40 days we can be reminded that, when all is said and done, you can't take any of this with you. We deceive ourselves daily about what matters, but as your bones rot in the grave you won't be thinking about your hair and makeup. As others divide up you possessions among themselves you will have a deep understanding of what stuff was ever yours to begin with. When it is just you and God, face to face, He isn't going to be worried about what you chose to do with your 401K or vacation plans.

I know some may struggle with the whole Catholic aspect of Lent. I am not of the school of thought that we can impress God and work our way into heaven. For me, Lent will be about the opposite of that. Lent will be a time where I examine my heart, see all my foolish attachments, gain a deeper understanding of what "need" means, and know with out the Blood of the Lamb, spilt for me, I am nothing.


Kari said...

Amen girl...appreciate the honesty.

I'm not a fan of "talking about what you're giving up for Lent". I feel like if you're talking about it all the time, you're perhaps (disclaimer...there are exceptions) not focusing on the bigger picture of what Lent is.

Lent is about taking time to journey to the cross with Jesus. If you're going to "give something up" I feel like you're better off giving up something that is truly hindering time with the Lord. Giving up Starbucks may not result in you praying daily. However, giving up things like TV, computer time, dating, etc might result in more productivity because you're hopefully going to use that time to focus on Him and eliminate distractions.

Anyway, I just wanted to jump on the soapbox with you.

I had a random thought at church yesterday: I will always be forever grateful that I am an American (a middle class American at that), but I also felt that we live in such a noisy and rich nation that I'll have to strive all the more to be reliant on the Lord beyond just emotions...It's easy to feel completely taken care of in terms of 'needs' that I tend to just pray over my 'wants'.

Honeycutt Family said...

Great post, Gretch. I wish you could have heard our pastor last night because he talked about a lot of this stuff too. And he even said that "lent" sounds like "lint"...too funny!

This is my first year to try and participate in this whole Lent business. It is HARD!!!! I had to share my goal with people as a way of accountability, if that makes sense. But I agree with Kari that we shouldn't be "bragging" about what we are giving up.

And I totally agree with you that the whole concept of denial is very foreign to our American way of thinking!

Here is a website that our church is encouraging people to look at if you need/want more encouragement:

I am excited about this season of renewal and drawing ever closer to Christ. After all, IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM!!!!!

Valerie Moore said...

Right on, Gretchen!

McHam Family said...

I agree that we shouldn't brag about it. I can't stand it when people fast and then always talk about it. It is about GOD, not us! But since you're sharing I'll tell you I'm "giving up" cussing. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. I have a funny feeling that God probably doesn't like my cussing and I think if I remind myself that I'm doing something for God (and the rest of the members of my family) then it will help me kick the habit. Obviously I'm not hoping to pick this back up once Lent is over. But having grown up Catholic/ Episcopalian, this is an annual tradition I will never give up. It's always a good reminder when you think about what you've given up, cringe for a minute, then remind yourself that God did much, much, MUCH more than that for us.