My Love/Hate Relationship with Lent

Something’s bugging me. And it has to do with me.

Today is the start of Lent, the forty-day period leading up to our celebration of Easter. It’s tradition to give something up for Lent, whether it’s chocolate, TV, Facebook, or the musical sounds of Justin Bieber. It is a wonderful, ancient practice that has been getting more attention the last few years. Its benefit is in preparing our hearts and reflecting on what our Lord Jesus went through for us. To suffer and find some solidarity with Christ’s sufferings.

Why do we need to do this?

Glad you asked. We live in a culture that is so bubble-wrapped and cushy that giving something up has become a felt need for many of us. Suffering is a rarity. It is, because when it comes our way we are always shocked. We live “blessed” here in America.

We have fully adopted this mindset in the church. We equate God’s blessing with the American dream. While we scoff at the ridiculousness of the “health and wealth/name it and claim it” gospel, we cling to a version of it. In Christ, God is ready to give us “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” Not to pick on the book with this title, but this is such a popular message and an underlying layer of Christian sub-culture.

While I do believe God wants to bless His people (so that they in turn are a blessing), this was not the central focus of Jesus’ message about the kingdom or what life would look like for kingdom people.

The message of Jesus could accurately be titled “The Life You Never Wanted.” Men come up to him asking to be his disciples, and he tries to convince them they don’t really want this. He tells stories of counting the cost, asks his closest followers if they want to drink the cup he’s been given to drink, and tells the crowd that to follow him is to GO TO THE CROSS.

That’s not a popular message. That’s not sunshine and gumdrops. That’s not the American dream.

And it’s not a message I like too much, either. I want just a little bit of Jesus. I echo the Apostle Paul, but I leave parts off: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

I have become too comfortable with one side of the coin and have justified not looking at the other side of the coin. I love my new identity in Christ, but I ignore my calling as Christ’s. The call to take up my cross.

Lent is an opportunity to embrace that call, even if it’s in a safe, small, temporary way.

So here’s my deal: I’ve been thinking about Lent all week. And now it’s here. And I still don’t know what I’m going to give up… and to be honest, I don’t want to give anything up.

Do you know what I told myself this morning? Maybe I don’t have to literally give anything up. Maybe I can just fully embrace the idea of being willing to give something up, and that’s good enough.

Pathetic. Cop out.

I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I will be giving something up for the next 40 days.

Maybe even longer.

How about you? Do you feel this tension inside you? That God is calling you to something grander than the American dream?

To A Life You Never Wanted?