Longing for Lent

I’ve been looking forward to Lent for a while now, as if it couldn’t get here quick enough.  Not because of its austere nature – a lot of people mistake the repentant spirit of Lent for general gloom and masochistic grovelling.  I have no wish to be a part of that.  My longing for Lent is filled with a deep hope in the power of the gospel, aware of the unhealth in my own heart and aching to better know the love of God revealed in the cross.

One of the things Christians commonly do during Lent is to give up something to identify, in some small way, with the Passion of Jesus.  The whole idea behind fasting is that we get attached to good things in this life, things which can easily and quickly become ultimate concerns, holding our hearts primary affections and loyalty.  A fast takes that good thing away, allowing your heart to reattach itself to its proper object of affection – God.

A few weeks ago I decided to give up blogging and social media for the season of Lent (not such a smart thing when your publisher decides to go with a Facebook campaign during this exact same time period – but they’ve been great about it).  So why?  It’s not because social media is such an evil; I’m not trying to wean myself off of this ill that we need to scrub out of our lives.

My dirty little secret is that my ego really, really likes the strokes these media give me.  When people comment on a post, when they “like” a comment or thought, when a blog post generates a lot of hits, something inside of me goes “ahhh.”  I’ve allowed this good thing of social media to function as an idol.  I’ve let it take a nasty twist, making “friends into audiences and us into performers.” (Jesse Rice, The Church of Facebook).  When you are thinking too long about a status update or begin to check out the site statistics on your blog one too many times in a day, you know something is off.  My need for attention (a good thing we’re made to know) is attached to something that will never deliver the freight for what my heart hopes.  Ergo, my social media fast.

I now get forty days to look to the cross, taking a long gaze at what it reveals to me, surveying it, taking measure of the height, width and depth of God’s love for me and you, andlearning to know that it is enough.  I’m finding that the gospel alone dispatches the hope, identity and love which satisfies what my ego and heart are screaming out for.  As I said, I can’t wait for Lent to be here.  By the time you read this, it will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of these forty days, and I’ll be focused on this strange and wonderful centre of the Christian faith.

So I’ll see you in forty days or so.  You can touch base with my via email or give me a call to talk.  But let me leave you with a prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.  But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us … ”


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  1. #1 by joanna sytsma-battjes on April 16, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    Dear Phil,
    Thanks for your thoughts on Lent; I am finding beauty in this time of “Bright Sadness”.
    After spending some very special time at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, I have come to appreciate the daily prayer schedule. I am going to order your book of prayers.
    Have you heard of the book/devotional/music called Beautiful Mercy? It was put together by the faith community of Saint Benedict’s Table; I think this community is in Winnipeg but I could be wrong.. (Steve Bell has a beautiful song on the included CD).

    • #2 by phil on April 28, 2011 - 8:16 pm

      Joanna – I hope Lent was good for you. And thanks much for the referral of “Beautiful Mercy” – I’ll be checking it out soon.

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