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The Identity of Lent


In college, I lived on a great hall, in a great dorm. We weren’t all friends but the camaraderie from living in that place has formed some of the deepest friendships I have today. One day, as Lent steadily approached, one of the more quiet guys was near our room and somehow the topic of what we were going to do/give up for the season was asked. In one of the few sentences I ever heard him say as he walked by our conversation, he said, “I’m giving up abstinence for Lent.” 

In the context of the small Christian college, this was literally the perfect joke, with the perfect timing, from the perfect person to say it. And while I still am amused by his comment, that moment my freshman year has caused me to constantly to be reconsidering Lent and it’s purpose.

The conversation of Lent has always seemed to lend itself to much more of what we will do – in particular what we will give up – leading up to Easter, and the list is as wide as it tends to be shallow. The sacrifice of chocolate, coffee, facebook, fill in the blank has always seemed in my own experience to trivialize the journey to the cross, rather than prepare me for it. “Oh, you gave up coffee? That’s probably exactly what Jesus meant when he said to daily take up your cross” rings in my ears when I think about what I am actually accomplishing through my crabbiness of no caffeine. 

There is beauty behind sacrifice – becoming more aware our own personal desires, no matter what they may be, and what drives them and how that impacts our relationship with Christ is something we should be constantly making ourselves aware of, as our desires in our search for God are of the utmost significance, but part of it feels like we have missed the point.

I have tried multiple strategies for lent, from giving up something to trying to add something of significance to my daily journey as we follow the story of Jesus toward his calling. And I think the reason I have always felt left wanting during this time is a) the significance of the cross will always leave us wanting more and surprising us in new ways, no matter how often we hear/tell/live the story and b) this season should be marked by a coming together of all of us who stand at the foot of the cross, the thing that unites us over all else – over worship styles, building preferences, baptism mode, etc – the cross and the resurrection are the driving force behind what we all do, and to me, it feels like our culture of Lent has turned into a individualized event.

During the time when we as the Church should be able to stand together, no matter denomination, creed, & style, and say it is because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that any of this matters, we have turned it into an individual sport (for lack of a better word) of who can do what. Tapping into the culture of “me”, Lent has become much more of about what I can do and how I am preparing than it has the community of faith in Jesus coming together at the one place that matters above all.

The logic and culture of otherness is what we tend to find our identity in through our culture, and this season of Lent should provide us with a renewed opportunity to come together as a community of believers, stripped of those identities that make us different and preparing ourselves for the one thing we all cling to – the cross.  To push aside all these things that divide, and say here we are, in desperate need of a Savior, preparing our minds and hearts as the people of a God who loved so much. 

So my challenge this year, in the midst of Lent, in the midst of preparing your own heart and mind, is figuring out what can we do as a community to show the way of the cross, to show the way of the resurrection to a world in desperate need of grace that Lent is not one more thing that divides us or shows off our individualism, but is the start of the most uniting day and event we have, Easter.

What do you think? Are you giving up or adding something to your daily routine? What do you think we could do as a community of believers to prepare together? 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Raquel permalink
    February.22.2012 11:07 am

    thanks Adam for the wednesday morning inspiration and keeping things in perspective for me. i hope my msg finds you and allison well and full of bliss….:) im doing my part to teach my children to not only share with others, but to love them equally. what the world needs now is more LOVE.

    • February.22.2012 11:16 am

      Absolutely Raquel! It’s always good to hear from you and I know you are loving on this kids well. Thanks for reading.

  2. Mike Stevens permalink
    February.22.2012 11:08 am

    Excellent commentary. I’ve thought the same thing about “trivializing” Lent by giving up something silly, but then realized that even if that was not Jesus’ intention, it’s still effort and should not be discounted. Every little step helps, right? Although the sacrifices are individual in nature, the discussion and sharing of them with friends/family has a sense of community to it. I have several friends who don’t attend church regularly, but still get in the Lent sacrifice discussion and some even participate. It’s possible that this could lead them to a greater involvement with a church and a relationship with Christ. The idea of doing something as a community for Lent is great one and I look forward to people’s responses.

    My priest told me a while ago to read works by St. Francis de Sales and this Lent I am going to read “Introduction to the Devout Life”…and the cliche of giving up soda.

    • February.22.2012 11:15 am

      I gave up soda about a month ago, mostly because I was getting fat rather than any other spiritual significance, ha. But that book sound great, I will add them to my library queue! thanks for sharing, and I agree, every step, no matter how small in the right direction is a good step.

  3. February.22.2012 4:21 pm

    I appreciate this post because I was never taught the significance of Lent or Advent, which would be on the opposite side of the “Jesus Countdown Scale.” I grew up with friends who participted in giving things up for lent, but I never really understood the purpose of it. I always assumed that it was just for other denominations, but you bring up a great point – we’re all anticipating the same thing. It’s not about giving things up; it’s about the significance of the resurrection.

    • February.22.2012 4:29 pm

      Thanks man. (and just so you know, I will do whatever it takes to get the “Jesus Countdown Scale” to become a real thing)

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