Lenten thoughts

So I guess this Wednesday is “Ash Wednesday” and is the beginning of Lent. I’ve never observed Ash Wednesday or Lent, although part of me responds to the idea of having one’s daily structure influenced by observations of things other than “credit card due” or “laundry day.” We are physical people, and I think that we sometimes respond well to physical reminders.

But  I am finding my response to the idea of Lent is something along the lines of resentment, of missing the point.

I don’t think that’s really fair. I get the idea behind Lent–participate in sacrifice and taste and be reminded of what your Lord did on your behalf in His time on this earth. I get it.

But part of me wants to howl: don’t you make sacrifices every day? Don’t you, every day, do things you don’t want to do, and not do things you want to do?

They say we’re in a first world country, so of course we have more to sacrifice. I know that. As long as we’re alive, we have something to sacrifice. But I am the one who burns out with shocking regularity. I am the one who is always being told I need to learn how to rest, how to do nothing, how to take care of myself. I am the one saying yes to helping my aunt, yes to helping my grandparents, yes to helping my brothers and my sisters, yes to helping my friends, yes to helping random classmates. . .and no to myself. No to the little things that I just want to do, because other things are “more important”.

And now I should embark in exercise of doing more of that?

What about the inverse? What about consciously taking part in the plenty, realizing with joy that the result of His sacrifice is that we don’t bear that burden. That we have been so graciously removed from that which we could not carry that our only response can be to rejoice in our freedom. Why not consciously partake of small pleasures that we normally deprive ourselves, remembering that the results of Christ’s sacrifice is abundance toward us?

What if we ate chocolate every day as a reminder of His faithful and constant provision? What if we purchased laundry service for the season of Lent, remembering how He bore our burdens and removed the labor from us? What if Lent was a time of rejoicing in the recognition of the sacrifice on our behalf and the rest enacted by that? What if Lent was more like the Jubilee, more like the Passover?

I suppose some would say, “That’s what Easter is for. Lent is a time of carrying crosses.”

Maybe.

But somehow, deep inside of me, I remain unconvinced. Maybe all of the burdens and sacrifices–all of them!–are buried in Christ. That all that remains for us is choir of praise, for our burdens are light. Maybe we need to think about what Christ was thinking–not the depth of the sacrifice, but the depth of love and obedience. Maybe when it says, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,“it means that Christ Himself did not fixate upon what He was losing, what He was giving up–but what He was gaining, and what joy He would be taking part in.

I guess I don’t understand this idea of self-inflicted sacrifice. Jesus followed the will of His father into many things–indeed, many things that we describe as sacrifice–it was just that: service to His father. Not self-inflicted deprivation. In fact, the pattern that I see Jesus leaving behind was one of feasting and enjoying Himself when everyone thought He ought be somber and reflective and stringent and practical and prudent and circumspect and observant.

In fact, you know what? I have very nearly talked myself into buying a big bag of dark chocolate and observing the season of Lent by delighting in all the things He has made possible–by His creation and by His sacrifice. And maybe taking a nice, long hot bath every week in commemoration of of how His labor means my rest, and that He delights to see me acknowledge His provision.

If you find it draws you closer to God to observe Lent in the traditional manner, by all means, do not let me stop you. We must all be faithful to what we have heard. But as you traverse the Web this week, with it’s many Ash Wednesday/Lenten posts–consider. With this joy set before us, how shall we imitate the Christ, the Anointed One of God?

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