24 March 2014

the other 325

I have a problem with Lent.  Although I like the idea of the Lenten season, especially in the final days leading up to Ash Wednesday, there is a distinct dislike that eventually meets me along the way.  Having reflected on this annual process I have determined that there is one distinct theological reason for the love-hate pattern of Lent that inevitably leads me here - Lent is hard.

I'm not one to compare myself to others in the area of spirituality, but I would tend to think that I am no more or less devoted than the next poor soul trying to meander through this forty days.  That I admit that Lent is a difficult season does not necessarily make me any more spiritually lazy than the next person.  I'm simply point out what seems to be the biggest obstacle between the person I am today and the person that I might be once I have died to self - namely, that this sort of death is hard.

It seems that every year that I journey through Lent I discover something about the season itself, along with the discoveries that come through the discipline.  These past few days I have come to realize that my problem is not simply with the forty days of Lent, but rather with the three-hundred-twenty-five days that exist outside of Lent.  Because, if I am allowing myself to be honest (which is a necessary virtue for Lenten fasting), then I must admit that it is the days surrounding Lent that make these forty days so hard.

Because in those three-hundred-twenty-five days I believe that I can do whatever I want - eat what I like, become increasingly relaxed in my prayers, focus my mind on other endeavors.  Lent challenges all of that, and I have discovered that I do not like to be pushed in that way.  The sad truth is that I would rather indulge as many desires as I can, pray whenever it is convenient and self-centered, and not have to be constantly bothered with the life of the kingdom of God.  And that makes me a rather pathetic case.

Of course, I could choose to ignore Lent and its disciplines.  That would be choosing a happy and easy road, and I live in a culture that exists on those two ideals.  In fact, many people from within evangelicalism would support me in this - if it is too hard or too depressing, then simply don't do it.  After all, we are told, getting to know God shouldn't be that strenuous.

[One of the objections to observing Lent, of course, is found in the assertion that it is not prescribed in Scripture - that it is an invention of the church.  This is a poor excuse (and I have always rejected it, even in my early years when I didn't know what to do with Lent) for two reasons: first, it is a hubris that says that we can learn nothing from the wisdom of the church fathers and tradition; second, God clearly thinks that seasonal remembrance is beneficial, for he prescribed his own liturgical schedule to his people, even if one of them wasn't specifically named Lent.]

But Lent is a season that exposes all of this faulty thinking.  If I have come to the realization that I am self-serving, indulging and self-centered in my refusal to walk a path that calls me to embody the story of Jesus, then it seems that getting to know God might actually be that strenuous.  In fact, I must now admit that drawing near to God must be hard, for it is antithetical to everything that I would choose to be on my own.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it - Prone to leave the God I love.

Perhaps I don't have a problem with Lent.  Maybe Lent has a problem with me.  It is in the other three-hundred-twenty-five that I find myself more open to drifting away, lest I have come to embrace the story of Jesus in a way that allows the Holy Spirit to guide me.

For what it's worth, Lent is a difficult season.  In perspective, it is a forty day period out of a year, and although it may seem like it's taking forever, looking back upon it the other three-hundred-twenty-five, it doesn't seem like it was that bad at all.  Therein lies a metaphor for this life, in which we struggle for a short while that will not be able to compare to the glory which shall be revealed unto us.

No comments: