For years, I missed it. I missed the point on the season of Lent. You see, I thought that it was a season for giving up things that call for my attention until Easter, at which point it's ok to go back to where I started. But The point is not to go back to the start. The point of Lent is to engage in Christ's act of living into his identity, an identity marked by love even unto death, to walk with him in the desert, to respond to the compelling word of God which calls for our attention over against all other voices. It means that sometimes we give up on bread to remember that we live by the word of God. But the point is not giving up things. No. That's just a means to an end. The point is coming out different on the other side so that as we walk with Christ to death and to resurrection, when Christ steps out of the tomb changed, so do we.
Last night at our "Shrove Tuesday" Dinner (the evening before Ash Wednesday we get together, eat pancakes, and talk about Lent), I shared the story of Jesus in the desert. The Devil invited him to embrace a particular version of his story and to use the power he had to turn stones into bread. We talked about how the stones represented, in many ways, a sort of coercive power that lies behind much of our temptation and distraction. So we each took up a small rock and reflected on the things that keep us from living into God's version of our story, our true identity marked by love. Those rocks became for us a representation of those things and a representation of our grip on control and exploitation of power. For some of us it was our greed, our impatience, our dishonesty, the darkness that overwhelms us, our refusal to embrace our belovedness, etc. So we took those rocks and we marked them in love. We marked them with words that pointed toward our identity in Christ. Some of us wrote "honesty," "generosity," "love", "patience," "light," or simply "beloved." We marked those stones of our depravity and we resolved to carry them with us during lent as a reminder to loosen our grip a little bit and to live a life of love so that when resurrection comes we will be better for it.
But any such resolution must be accompanied by discipline. I will not be restored by merely wanting it to be so. For me, the stone of my depravity is, as my friend Kevin often puts it, "practical atheism"--a life lived without any reflection of dependence on God. In order to live into this identity, I will be taking up the practice of disciplined devotional prayer. For the sake of accountability, I will be sharing these written prayers (starting with the prayer I wrote a little while ago) here on my blog.
I invite you to join me in this journey. There will be a prayer posted here each day of the Lent season. Join me in these prayers each day until resurrection comes crashing into the present so that as the tomb is opened to a new creation, we can stand in that creation ourselves restored and renewed.