by David R. Brock
There are no obvious reasons to look forward to Lent. We begin with ashes and end with the Last Supper.
In the between-time we’re invited to ponder dust and walk in wild, dangerous, desert landscapes. We’re invited to face our mortality and our weakness. Frankly, few of us would choose Lent. Most of us have to be driven into it, just as Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit after his baptism.
I don’t get to the vulnerability of Lent’s invitation without a fight; without strong resistance. Give up something for Lent. Give up an addiction: coffee, CNN, this month’s top 40 countdown, Facebook, impatience. “Oh, yes,” I say, “I’m not going to trivialize Lent by just giving up chocolate. It means so much more.” Well, yes it does, Dave, but don’t use your non-trivialization to sophisticatedly rationalize your way around giving up a habit bordering on addiction! Lent does nudge, push, even drive us to give something up!
And maybe those 40 days of “giving up,” of fasting (whether from food or a news feed), or surrendering power or confidence, or confessing, “I can’t be this; I can’t do this on my own,” will alter something at my core . . . forever. Maybe that is what I dislike most about Lent. Maybe that is why I have to be driven to it, rather than politely invited.
Lent is primarily about dislocation. It is about the inability to go on with business as usual. “The ashes of Lent,” says Ron Rolheiser, “invite us . . . to leave our regular beds and tables to sleep and sit patiently for a while in the ashes . . . so that some silent, inner, gestation process can teach us what it means that we are dust and that we are invited to turn from sin to the gospel.”
Here’s the unwelcome truth. The God of immeasurable love and mercy and acceptance is most often made real to us in our weakness and in our flaws and in the displeasure with our unpleasant self. In our imperfection, says Richard Rohr, “the cross of failure becomes the catapult toward transformation.”
I’m not sure this reflection will do much to cause you or me to walk into the risk of that which is ultimately the Good News, the Gospel, but that’s what we’re offered.
Something is calling to be given up in you and me. It’s hard. But, it is invitation. An invitation from the God of all creation; from the God who is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. The giving up gives place for the more—more life, more clarity about what matters most, more you and me—the genuine you and me.
Have we got the guts and the capacity to do that? Well, yes. With and in Christ, it is possible!