This year I will be observing lent.
I have done so before: giving up chocolate, soda, facebook and the like. However my focus has always been on the self-denial aspect of this season. Certainly this is a part of it. When Christ was in the desert, wandering for 40 days he had nothing. His whole life was an act of self-denial, not the least of which was denial of his seat at the Right Hand. But it cannot only be about self sacrifice, for what good is that? There must be a reason behind such sacrifice.
I think that two great things come out of this period of abstinence.
First, preparation. Christ was preparing himself in the wilderness for his ministry. During Lent I think we prepare our hearts to long for the fullness that we will receive at Easter. Of course, we already have the redemption offered by Christ but observing the season and looking forward to celebrating renews our minds and hearts to remember the joy of salvation. Going without meat or coffee or facebook, denying certain pleasures that have undoubtedly been given through us by grace through the Father, make us long for fullness again. We will long for the abundant life that is promised in restoration. I believe that completeness will only be achieved in our Heavenly bodies, but like all observances here in this world, we also may enjoy a shadow of what is to come.
That desire to FB poke that cute girl in Physics class, that taste for a sugar cookie, or that tiredness you may feel by not having your morning coffee: those are all longings for true community, true bread and true awakening. Everything God has blessed us with in this realm is a shadow of something beautiful he is preparing for us in a robust way for us to enjoy for all eternity. Lent is not about giving up things just for the sake of giving up things, or even giving up things so you can find time to pray more. I believe it is to set our minds in a mode to long for Truth. To long for Real things, things that we satisfy on a daily basis with counterfeit coins. Let us set our minds to worship and develop a taste for the treasures promised in Christ and look forward to a celebration.
As I mentioned before, I believe there are two things that come out of this self-denying period. The second of which is celebration. I believe in this time of Lent we can look forward to the feast that will be enjoyed by all at the Great Banquet at the end of this Time here on Earth. A time when all the shadows will be dusted away. And the grass will hurt our feet because it is so real and rainbows will hurt our eyes because they are so bright and one bite of a pomegranite will saturate us because it is so sweet. Oh, what a celebration that will be!
Also, in less grand fashion we may celebrate here in this physical body with our friends and family coming out of Lent. It all pours into itself: shaking off the burden of self-denial, enjoying the pleasures we have been without, celebrating Christ being rasied from the dead, and in turn celebrating what that means for us. It means all these things we have been longing for throughout Lent are gladly given back in abundance. It means that Christ has already given up enough so that we may reap the rewards.
As I grow older in my faith I have come to see so much I have been taught in religion is that there are things God wants to strip from us. Basically I viewed Lent as let us give up our pleasure, pray a lot, and then we will be holy. But I do not think Lent is that. God opertaes in fullness and in exuberant richness. We will give up our pleasures to wait for them. We will wait and prepare. Then when the time is right, we will feast and celebrate and what a wonderful time it will be! The Father wants us to enjoy this life, and he has belssed us with good chocolate, laughter, video games, and diet cokes. These are things that we may enjoy.
A deep, dark beer and tobacco pipe savoured among friends will be all the more lovely since we've missed it for 40 days.
Let us focus our eyes on True pleasures during this season of Lent and look forward to the celebration that is to come.
4 weeks ago