Giving Up Lent for Lent

Diana Butler Bass has given a most poignant reflection on the power and weakness of the season of Lent. Just last evening I participated in a joint Ash Wednesday service that included four congregations (UCC, Disciples, UMC, and PCUSA) and six clergy (2 retired, 4 active). I find this a meaningful service and not at all morbid, but as Diana shares I too find it difficult to follow all the disciplines seemingly inherent in this tradition -- after all I had a burger and fries at lunch.
I leave you with these words from her contribution to the God's Politics blog:

When I gave up Lent for Lent, it become clear that I needed to give up the idea that certain religious disciplines would bring me closer to God. This belief had plagued me since I was an evangelical teenager struggling with my congregation’s expectation for a “daily quiet time.” Never able to maintain this program of spiritual rigor, I felt like a Christian failure. When I finally admitted that I could not do it, I experienced a new freedom in prayer. Giving up led me to a richer and deeper connection of God in prayer, and led me to practice prayer in ways that resonate with who God has made me to be – unique, meaningful, and transformative. Not a program, but a way of being.

Lent tempts Christians to try to fulfill other people’s expectations of what spirituality should look like, usually related to some sort of religious achievement or self-mortification. But Lent is neither success nor punishment. Ultimately, Lent urges us to let go of self-deception and pleasing others. These 40 days ask only one thing of us: to find our truest selves on a journey toward God.

Giving up Lent for Lent meant giving up guilt. Although I have been back to church for Ash Wednesday many times since I gave up Lent for Lent, that year freed me from spiritual tyranny and helped me understand Easter anew. The journey to Easter is not a mournful denial of our humanity. Rather, Lent embraces our humanity – our deepest fears, our doubts, our mistakes and sins, our grief, and our pain. Lent is also about joy, self-discovery, connecting with others, and doing justice. Lent is not morbid church services. It is about being fully human and knowing God’s presence in the crosshairs of blessing and bane. And it is about waiting, waiting in those crosshairs, for resurrection.


Mystical Seeker said…
I am surprised, but in a good way, to find someone who feels much the same way as I do about Lent. I am currently reading her latest book that discusses moderate and liberal churches that grow, but until I ran across this blog entry I didn't really know how she felt about issues like this. Thanks for posting this pointer.
Anonymous said…
Going one day without eating is nothing as we fast all through the year. Not because we have to but because we may. Actually the Bible does say we should fast. So I guess we have to. I fast when I choose to fast. I fast when I want to hear God clearly and seek his face.

There are some people that I know personally who fast 1 to 3 days per week every week. It is a life style.

It comes with time and it is a growing process. Lent is a very important season just as important as Advent. Right now I am in the after Glow of Christ birth. However, now I am on the Road to to the Cross. The cross should always be my goal.

I am participating in lent because I am seeking Gods face. Not because it is a requirement and someone told me to do it. I am doing it for my personal relationship with Christ. 40 is the number of power.

I just don't understnd the Fat Tuesday thing. Getting into a drunken stooper. Tearing you Temple down and expect God to dwell in an alcohol snelling temple the very next day. I meant think about that. Do you relly want God to dwell in ou after you are all hung over.

Lent is not about giving up things. It is also about taking up some things. Like Quiet Time with God if you have him on theback burner. Being a better Steward of your temple and everything that God has blessed you with. Your home, your house, your car.

Lent for mehas nothing to dowith anyone else or what they think. It is about me and te father only. You can dedicate any 40 days to the Lord anytime of the year.

Again as of yesterday I am on the road to the cross. The cross goes through the desert. My Daddy will take me through. After the resurectoin of Jesu Christ there should be new life. Don't go back to your old habits throught the whole year and when Lent rolls around you slip back. Just think about why you are participating. is it for man or for God.
Anonymous said…
Why not seek God's face 24/7 instead of during "Lent"? Why not have a personal relationship with Jesus 24/7 instead of just squeezing in some concentrated "special time" for 40 days?

Giving up Lent for Lent seems like a great idea. Not being churched, it sounds like another man-made tradition that gives someone bragging rights about getting "holier" because they succeeded in giving something up for 40 days. Our salvation is a process of allowing His light to shine through us as we shed our flesh day by day... through love, not Lent.

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