Driven into Lent
By David Brock of Redmond, OR, USA
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. -Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV
There are no obvious reasons to look forward to Lent. We begin with ashes and end with the Last Supper.
In the between-time we’re invited to ponder dust and walk in wild, dangerous, desert landscapes. We’re invited to face our mortality and our weakness. Frankly, few of us would choose Lent. Most of us have to be driven into it, just as Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit after his baptism.
I don’t get to the vulnerability of Lent’s invitation without a fight-without strong resistance. Give up something for Lent. Give up an addiction: coffee, CNN, this month’s Top 40 countdown, Facebook, impatience. “Oh, yes,” I say, “I’m not going to trivialize Lent by just giving up chocolate. It means so much more.” Well, yes, it does, Dave, but don’t use your non-trivialization to sophisticatedly rationalize your way around giving up a habit bordering on addiction! Lent does nudge, push, even drive us to give something up!
And maybe those 40 days of “giving up,” of fasting (whether from food or a news feed), or surrendering power or confidence, or confessing, “I can’t be this; I can’t do this on my own” will alter something at my core…forever. Maybe that is what I dislike most about Lent. Maybe that is why I have to be driven to it, rather than politely invited.
Lent is primarily about dislocation. It is about the inability to go on with business as usual. “The ashes of Lent,” says Ron Rolheiser, “invite us…to leave our regular beds and tables to sleep and sit patiently for a while in the ashes…so that some silent, inner, gestation process can teach us what it means that we are dust and that we are invited to turn from sin to the gospel” (“Sitting in the Ashes,” March 30, 2002).
Here’s the unwelcome truth. The God of immeasurable love and mercy and acceptance is most often made real to us in our weakness and in our flaws and in the displeasure with our unpleasant self. In our imperfection, Richard Rohr says, “the cross of failure becomes the catapult toward transformation” (“The Positive in the Negative,” February 15, 2016).
Something is calling to be given up in you and me. It’s hard. But, it is invitation-an invitation from the God of all creation, from the God who is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. The giving up gives place for the more-more life, more clarity about what matters most, more you and me-the genuine you and me.
Have we got the guts and the capacity to do that? Well, yes. With and in Christ, it is possible!
God, may my deep hope align with your deep vision. Release in me anything that keeps me from freely following your Spirit. Amen.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Breathe deeply as you enter a time of silence. Become gently attentive to what may be restricting you from faithfully responding to the divine invitation in your life. Are there priorities, attachments, tasks, or motivations competing for your response? What does freedom for God look or feel like in you this day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.