Friday, March 03, 2006

Just (don't) try harder

From Maggi:

It's a common misconception that Lent is about self-improvement. Somehow a half-remembered custom of giving things up has been mixed in with our society's obsession with self-help and self-improvement, so that we've blurred the true meaning of the fast into a rather individualistic concept, more like a New Year Resolution to detox or de-clutter.

Lent is not about giving up luxuries, not about losing weight or gaining other benefits, not about food per se, not about de-cluttering or Feng Shui or about ay other kind of feel-good, de-toxifying exercise. In the end, it's about denying yourself some of the essentials of everday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-aligning ourselves with God and his purposes in our world; about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any case.

And neither is Lent about achievement. We cannot earn God's love, nor save ourselves. If our Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and unshakeable knowledge that we are human - we are but dust, and to dust we shall return - but that to be human is enough, under the loving gaze of God.


postliberal said...

Summit like this should be in my catechism - I tend to get a bit woolly with lent, so it's reassuring to find a de-cluttered thought on what it is and means.

Jen E said...

I agree with your "what Lent is not"s. I would add that most of the Lenten reading materials I am reading are very self-absorbed, even if the scrutiny to oneself is critical.

Lent is to focus on Jesus, not on me. Whatever in me gets in the way, I should notice and ask for help to remove. It should not be this exercise in self-scrutiny and feeling miserable about my miserable-ness... I really hold onto Jesus' forty days in the desert as focusing him and launching him on a brilliant life-giving ministry, not just on being the first step to a horrible execution.

My personal metaphor for Lent is resubmitting to the potter's hand. It will hurt, but be worth it.