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March 17, 2014, 10:23 AM

The Lent Equation.

To start: I am not, nor have I ever been Catholic.  While my heritage is just as conservative and regimented, I have never been subject to Latin verse or ornate robes (a real bummer).  In fact, growing up if anything was even remotely related to Catholicism, it was immediately deemed wrong and to be avoided.  Except Fat Tuesday, we always celebrated that one for some reason......  However for the rest of the events around that time (Ash Wednesday, Lent, Friday Fish Fry, etc...) I was taught and accepted the practice of thinking less of people for participating, actually wondering how they thought they were pleasing God by participating in these archaic and doctrinally wrong practices.  I can recall a specific individual praying directly against those practices in multiple church services I sat through growing up.  It has taken decades of tedious work by God on my heart to finally break through that shell of prejudice and shortsightedness to finally begin to see the beauty and dedication behind a simple marking of Ash on a forehead and 40 days of purposeful fasting.  

Indeed, I have come to accept and appreciate the pageantry of these acts of worship, fancy robes and all.  Will they ever show themselves in our tribe?  Probably not, and thats ok.  But that doesnt stop me (or us) from appreciating the beauty of a heart pointing itself towards God and the sacrifice of Jesus whether or not its got our doctrinal stamp of approval.  Its the facebooky thing to do this time of year to proudly post your chosen sacrifice for Lent...  Ironically, one of the most popular is fasting from facebook itself.  <The addiction of social media, and the fact that it has wormed its way into our consciousness and habits like the dreaded midnight binge of mint chocolate chip ice cream drowned in chocolate syrup is a topic for another long post...>  I havent given anything up for Lent in years, and much like my attitude from younger days, I find myself looking down on people who have.   Sure, there are some people who do something very honorable and give up things that will actually make life harder for the 40 days, but most of the offerings to Lent are pithy, minute offerings that have no weight to them.  And I walk right back into my judges chair, gavel in hand and start condemning these offerings in the name of my religion.  Its a vicious cycle that I cannot seem to break. Perhaps I should have thought to give up cynicism for Lent? 

To finally get to a point:  Lent is important.  Its important because it brings the suffering of Christ into our reality, out of the ethereal world in which we habitually contain it.  Even if its only for 40 days, pointing our hearts towards Jesus and seeing even a portion of his earthly battle realized in us is a valuable exercise in faith.  Those stories we preach about, and teach our children every Sunday are dangerously close to becoming simply that... stories. Some of them we treat like they're straight from the Brothers Grimm and only use to teach moral chastisement on children while ignoring them ourselves.  Zacchaeus?  We have left him in the realm of fable, being just a short man who wanted to see Jesus.  We've forgotten the words of Jesus declaring "Salvation has come to this house today..." ONLY after Zach promises to deplete his own fortune (4 times every cent he's stolen!!!), repent of his greed, and embrace the poverty of honesty.  Thats not just a story for children, its a relevant tale modeled for our societal propensity for greed and the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.  When these stories become our reality, we begin to see the powerful need for things like Lent, fasting, and the Cross.  

Here's my Lent Equation: Him > Me.  Less of me, More of Him.    

There doesnt need to be any stamp of approval or pageantry to  make that equation valuable to your life.  Whether you spend 40 days each Spring honoring the suffering of Jesus, or you do it one day a week in every season, Less of Me and More of Him is an equation that applies at all times. Here's where I really dont like the Lent equation:  when I'm called out to give more.  Thats not a new equation, (i.e. More of Me...), its me being willing to give up those things I wish I had more of (time, money, even joy and happiness).  Am I willingly offering of myself to the betterment and relief of others?  Less of Me means I hold my tongue.  Less of Me means patience.  Less of Me...  

What is your Lent Equation?  

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