- Jim Lovelady
What is Lent?
Are you bored?
I bet you're bored. I already know that you are busy. Super busy. Frantic. But I’m willing to bet that you are also pretty bored. You are bored because there isn't anything meaningful or WORTH doing (in your humble opinion) in the present moment. Multiply those moments across the timeline of your life and you get a lot of boredom…and a meaningless life.
If you are bored it means that you probably lack deep meaning in your life, something that calls you to something greater. Boredom means you have nothing to say NO to in order to say YES to the things that are more glorious--and why would you say NO when the world has curated a special set of distractions just for your comfort? Our economy is based on offering distractions (for a price) that create the façade of something meaningful to wrap your identity around. What distractions do you pursue? Have you set your phone to analyze how much you look at it? (I'm too scared to switch that setting to ON because I can't handle the truth). Have you gone a day without watching TV? What videos occupy your YouTube history? Where does your mind go to "check out"? What do you purchase? What brands are "totally you"?
When we are bored, it is most natural for us to solve the problem by looking for something to distract us--you name it, phones, Netflix, food, being nosey about your neighbor, travel, newer phones. Distractions are a helpful replacement for boredom but they don't fix our anxiety that comes from feeling like our life has no meaning. In fact, distractions do a really good job of hushing that still small anxious voice inside that says, "Your life is meaningless."
Does your life feel meaningless?
Your actions tell a story about what you value and what gives meaning to your life. You are telling a story every day. You wake up, leave the comfort of your bed, engage in challenges that test your humanity in all sort of ways, you make sacrifices to seek after whatever prize you desire and then you return to your bed at night with a story to tell. When someone asks, "How was your day?" it's the same as asking, "What is the meaning of your life?"
Your story arch repeats and overlaps at the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and life-long level so that ultimately you are, to the best of your ability, carving out as meaningful a life as--it would seem--is possible.
But are you bored with your story?
Every good story starts with a journey away from the comfort of home, a pilgrimage into the unknown where the hero is confronted with challenges both within and without and if successful, they return home having acquired the prize which they sought after. The good stories require sacrifice, for the hero to give up something they treasure so they can have something better.
Frodo had to give up the comfort of the Shire in order to destroy the ring.
Luke had to give up his predictable agrarian life on Tatooine in order to defeat the Galactic Empire.
Harry had to face his own demons in order to defeat he-who-must-not-be-named.
Simba had to go into the wilderness in order to return as king.
Moses gave up the Egyptian kingdom in order to guide God's people into the promised land.
Jesus gave up "equality with God as a thing to be grasped" in exchange "for the joy set before him."
Your story is about how you wanted something and then you went out and got it--or waited (impatiently) at home for Amazon to deliver it.
No wonder you are bored.
(A side note for those of you who are in the midst of the journey through the valley of the shadow of death, currently walking the path suffering, not bored at all but definitely looking for the meaning in all this meaningless chaos: I see you. Jesus sees you. The promise of the journey is the same. Keep reading.)
Lent is inviting you into a better story.
If you are bored--if your life feels meaningless, if you have a feeling that there is something better than binge watching Netflix or buying lots of tomorrow's junk or eating lots of junk food--you are ready for Lent. Lent is a 40-day-long story marked by the 40 journeys that you will embark on with actions that are not normal for you. It's a pilgrimage of sacrifice for six days with the seventh day a day of rest, reflection and celebration (more on this as we journey together).
The story of Lent is an invitation requiring you to leave the comfortable, the familiar, the known. It requires you to move into something difficult, through whatever challenges you may face, and into something beautiful.
Lent is the journey that invites you into the story of resurrection. Resurrection is the reality that was inaugurated by Jesus at his death and resurrection. It’s Jesus’ story but since you belong to him it’s your story too. Resurrection isn't just for the end of your life when you die. It is a reality that is offered to us when we move from the things that enslave us into the liberation of God's grace. Resurrection is the promise, the joy set before us, the treasure that is so glorious that it is hard to believe it is real.
Lent invites you to stop distracting yourself with the best technologies the world can offer. All those technologies are designed to do is keep you from facing the reality of your meaningless life. Lent forces you to face the fact that your life is meaningless. Then, in that moment of crisis, it gives you the opportunity to choose something greater (Christians call this Repentance). Lent invites you to leave the distractions behind, face the dark truths, then let resurrection life rise out of the struggle.
Jesus said, "If anyone would be my disciple they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
It's scary. I'm scared just thinking about it.
What must you give up in order to find new life?
What demons do you need to face?
What prize do you seek?
The journey of Lent is an invitation to something epic. It won't be easy but your prize is a deeper understanding of yourself and maybe even the death of things in your life that are killing you. The journey's promise is resurrection from that death into a new way of life and all along the way you have the Resurrected Savior as your guide.
Lent will take you from a life of comfort and the pursuit of distraction from boredom (or suffering) and bring you to a depth of meaning, love and wisdom. But it won't be easy. It's really difficult to actually practice Lent for 40 days. We'll talk more about what that practice of fasting and repentance can look like in future posts. For now, respond to the invitation. Do you want to go on a journey or do you want to stay home?
What will you give up so that you can begin your journey?
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