Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lenten Reflection (yes, I wanted it to Rhyme)

So, here we are, right smack dab in the midst of Lent. It's an interesting time for many: people giving up stuff, talking about what they gave up, and in some cases, drawing closer to God in the process. My question right now is why?

Let me explain what I mean. Many of us go into Lent without a fully accurate understanding of its history. There is this pervasive misconception that it is somehow a season instituted through some biblical mandate to set aside very specific time surrounding the date of our remembrance of Christ's death to become more fully aligned with that suffering up XBOX? Yeah, there seems to be a disconnect there for me. I mean, isn't this season of Christ's death and subsequent resurrection supposed to be more of a time to remember how those acts bought us out of the hands of a fate far worse than death? Isn't Christ's resurrection, the cross upon which he hung, and the tomb in which he lay more about how we are now walking in "the righteousness of God" then how we should give up ultimately meaningless things to somehow remember him more fully? Don't get me wrong, I am all about pulling away from the everyday and the things which consume us to focus on getting to know God more, but how many of us actually do that? How many of us lay things down and actually turn our efforts and attentions that would normally be focused on ourselves on the one who created those same selves? Or is it (as it has been for me), something we do because giving up stuff for God makes us feel better about us, and somehow helps us feel as if we are a part of the process of sanctification/justification/righteousness that we are all called to?

Let's start with an obvious (according to the scripture) but often overlooked fact- righteousness is not ours to work towards. We have it, plain and simple. Christ's life, death and resurrection imparted to us a righteousness that we did nothing to earn, and couldn't if we tried. We were sinners, lost in a lifestyle of sin as imparted to us by Adam, but Christ came on the scene and through His life, death and resurrection, gave a new life of righteousness to us as the second Adam. Christ's sacrifice didn't give us a semblance of righteousness but rather the real thing, with all that comes with it. It would be unjust for God to allow death to enter the world through sin without us doing anything to earn that and then expect that we should have to do something to earn the restoration from that sin through actions of our own. So, first point- We ARE righteous even before we do anything because of Christ.

To the whole giving-up-stuff-because-it's-what-you-do-during-lent syndrome, I'm all for it...if. If that giving up is about us turning our affections for the things of this world (which are often so glitzy and seemingly glamorous) back to the one who created those things and gave them to us to enjoy (and who came into the world in such an unassuming way that many people missed it). It's not about turning away from those things for 40 days because it shows some piety or sacrifice on our part, it's about turning from those things for those 40 days and to God and saying, "now what do I do with this extra time/energy/mental capacity that has been freed up by me laying down some things that were cluttering up my life."

I, personally, am tired of people telling me what they gave up for lent, without them following that statement up with what they are now picking up...

You stopped watching television? Awesome, do you pray more?
You stopped talking on the phone? Great, do you spend more time on relationships?
You stopped facebook or myspacing (but who does that anymore anyway)? Phenomenal, do you spend more time in quiet reflection?

My question to myself as much as anyone else is, what is it about lent that is about building Christ up in our lives? Is this season just a time for me to say I gave someting up for God, or is it a time for me to look back and remember how I drew closer to Him, learned more about Him, and saw how the things I put so much stock in pale in comparison to the one who gave me every good and perfect gift to enjoy in the first place? Is this a season I grin and bear without my most recent and favorite crutch, candy, game, or distraction? Or is this a time when the hunger and desire for those things pushes me to discover who made them so amazing in the first place. I pray I continually look past the seen to the unseen, and past the things I can give up to He who created all things and called them "good."

Pursue. Original.

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