So, you’re thinking of diving into Lent this year, eh?
Well, before you give up that bacon, before you take a temperance pledge, or before you start the self flagellation, read this. It may change your perspective a bit on this season.
Lent (which literally means “spring”), Beloved, is a season of spiritual housecleaning. It mimics the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism, wandering around trying to figure out what kind of Messiah he was going to be (and resisting the temptation to be many kinds of Messiahs). It mimics the 40 days Noah spent enduring the torrential rains, trying to figure out how he would survive on just God’s promises. It mimics the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the desert, trying to figure out what kind of people they would be: people of Pharaoh or people of YHWH?
So Lent, those 40 days of spiritual housecleaning, is where we Christians get the opportunity to once again figure out what kind of people we’re going to be: people that seek after fame, fortune, and power? Or people that seek after love, joy, and peace?
Which is it? And what does bacon have to do with it?
Let’s talk about that bacon…
Self-denial in Lent is a common practice, and some take it on because they want to see if they can accomplish self-denial for these 40 days.
Let me be blunt: that is selfish.
If you want to practice self-denial that is in keeping with Lent, then you must be willing to enter into this denial with plans to continue it past Easter. Because the purpose of Lent is to form and shape us into the kind of Easter people we feel God is calling us to be. So if your addiction to bacon is strong, if it is a stumbling block for your spiritual lives, then by all means go whole-hog on that denial bandwagon.
(See what I did there?)
But if you’re wanting to just see if you have the willpower to give up bacon, or anything, for 40 days, then I would pastorally suggest you adjust your priorities.
Give up something, or take on a discipline, but do it all trusting that, by doing these things that Christians have historically found meaning in, your spirit will be formed into a more humane shape…a shape God is calling forth from you like a potter molding clay.
Lent is a serious time, but not a somber time. It is a time of desert wandering that the church imposes upon us. It is a time when we focus inward so that, the rest of the year, we live our outward selves more fully in God’s love.
A practice of devotion (which we’ll be providing daily at GSLC), of engaging in silent retreat (you can certainly do that on March 25th here at GSLC this Lent), of weekly worship, or evening prayer (Wednesdays in Lent at GSLC), of fasting (which I’ll practice on Tuesdays in Lent), these are all goods to take on or give up this year.
But all of it should be aimed at helping you better answer this question: what kind of Christ-follower are you going to be this year?
Don’t let these 40 days go to waste. Every year the church gives us a season for introspection; let’s use it well.