The Bigger Picture of Lent

The following is the article I wrote for our parent newsletter for this month:

We are in the midst of the church season called Lent, which is about repentance and living into our true identity in Christ. Lent, as with all the seasons of the church calendar, is an opportunity for refreshment and for newness of faith.

So often we go about everyday life habitually. We create a status quo called the “routine” or the “everyday,” and this kind of routine can make us into robots. We program ourselves into apathy and so it becomes difficult to really change. We do the same thing every day and every week, we go to school, go to church, got to work, go to practice… and it hardens us and sort of freezes us into the day-to-day. It offers no space for us to think differently, for us to open up, or for us to rediscover our faith.

This is why summer camp can be such a life changing experience for students. It offers them space to thaw out and get away from the routine and find free space to re-think and re-discover. It gives a new context, outside the norm, and enables students to really change and to come out the other end of the experience different and renewed in their faith.

Lent offers the same kind of “thawing out” space. We step away from what’s in front of us, away from the status quo, away from some of the habits we’ve formed, so that we might come out the other side of our experience a little different, perhaps closer to God and closer to who God made us to be. We reprogram and reboot our system away from apathy and into freshness of faith. This is what Christ invites us to do during Lent.

But how many Lent seasons have come and gone and it seemed that nothing happened? We seem to come out no different sometimes. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes and we need to work a little bit to see the Divine in the mundane. But often times this happens because we take the opportunity for granted. If we enter into Lent as just another routine then we’re on the fast track to apathy and even frustration. We give up something just because it’s hard, we stop eating chocolate just because it’s tempting, we give up video games… ok, let’s not get silly…But what if we really thought about the big picture? What if we thought about how our Lenten practice might change us into who God wants and created us to be? What if we gave up things or took up practices in order to see past them and to see what else God might have for us?

A friend of mine is giving up Facebook (you may have heard of it) for Lent this year. But he’s not just doing it because it’s hard. He’s giving up Facebook because he sees that it can be a really “unintentional” form of communication and he wants to be more intentional in his relationships. There’s a bigger picture perspective to his practice and it’s changing him, shaping him, and giving him space to see and to reflect on how he relates with others.

Sure, we could just give up things because they’re hard to give up, moving toward Easter just so that we can go back to the norm. Or we could look beyond Easter. How much more could we change, how much more could our faith be renewed this season if we looked at the bigger picture and thought about what kind of people God wants us to be? What if we made coming out different on the other side—as Christ did in the resurrection—the heart of our Lenten practice?


Unknown said…
I remember working one summer at a camp. We had staff devotions every morning. One of the things the director kept telling us that summer is a "big picture" thing. He constantly asked us to "keep eternity's values in view." Pretty hard to do when you are "honey dipping" all day. But, he was a big picture guy and i was focused on outhouses. I probably didn't learn all that I should that summer.