In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the Jordan River, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.
- If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?
- When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
- If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?
- Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?
To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end. (From Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner)
So, here’s the deal: Some people give up wine or soda or chocolate or eating beef on Friday. Nothing is evil about such practices. A little sacrifice never hurt anybody and the body may be grateful for a little less alcohol, sugar, or fat. But do any of the above promote lasting real life change? Probably not. These practices have more to do with obligation and ritual than it does an authentic desire to connect with God.
What do you most deplore about yourself? What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to rid yourself of these self-destructive behaviors? That seems more beneficial than not drinking coffee.
What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to give yourself to the world and have the time of your life in the process? That seems more exciting than not going to Sonic.
I pray during this season that you grow closer to God and closer to the world.