As I shared in my sermon a few days ago, my attitude has been negative lately. There has been some stress at home and at church. The political situation in the United States has been very upsetting to me and I’ve been posting and sharing a lot of links on Facebook and Twitter, especially regarding Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. I could go on and on about it, but I won’t – because I decided that my Lenten focus this year will be on allowing God to transfigure my attitude.
I could’ve picked something easier, like giving up chocolate or staying away from fast food. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be easier. Because controlling an outward physical thing you put in your mouth is A LOT easier than controlling what you allow in your mind and heart and what comes out of your mouth. (ref. Matthew 15: 11)
But that’s more what the spirit of Lent is about. Reflecting, taking stock, looking in the mirror behind the pretty face to the bits of ugliness we’ve allowed into our souls. Cleaning house. Sorting through what keeps us from a fuller relationship with God and our neighbor and getting rid of it – hopefully not just for the 40+ days of Lent. The ideal is to start a practice during Lent and have it for the rest of our lives. Really, what would be the point of setting a goal to be kinder for Lent, only to return to being mean once Easter arrives?
So here are the guidelines I’m working on for myself for Lent this year. It’s not perfect or complete, but it’s a work in progress just like me.
- I will read a little bit every day for personal devotional time. I’ve gotten out of the practice of personal devotional time and that is not helpful. This reading will be separate and apart from sermon preparation, because sermon preparation is neither personal or devotional since it has the intentional focus of something that will become quite public. I’m going to be using Daily Readings from Luther’s Writings, selected and edited by Barbara Owen, published by Augsburg Fortress in 1993. It’s been gathering dust on my bookshelf, so I’ve dusted it off and hope to find new meaning in it.
- I will monitor how I consume and share social media. This will be HARD. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are FILLED with memes and links to articles, some of which are informative and important, especially in the current political season. But they also make me angry and suspicious. Hatred of diversity is rampant. Those who say they follow Christ aren’t acting like Christ. Hypocrisy is more blatant than ever. The political dialog isn’t dialog at all, just “talking at” people. I could go on and on – which is part of my problem. There is a need to stand up to those who misrepresent Jesus. There is a need to call out hatred and injustice that masks as leadership or a desire to “protect” people. I cannot sit by silent when part of my call as a baptized child of God is to serve, value and lift up the “least of these.” But in the process of standing up for others I can’t allow myself to be dragged down in the mud and become like those I protest against. Sinking to their level is not an option that is healthy for me (or for anyone else I think). I can’t stop reading the news or sharing it, but I have to be stricter about monitoring my sources and the amount. Perhaps just a handful of sources that are more bipartisan and only checking the news a few times a day instead of throughout the day which social media makes so easy. This will be a balancing act for sure – but balance is good. Without it we fall.
- I will be more conscious of the joy that is around me. Too many times we think we have to “find” something to make us happy, or that “thing” that will bring us joy. We search and search and many times the things we’re searching for are right in front of us, we just haven’t paid attention. It’s there. We just have to see it better. To use a Glennon Melton word, I have to better use my “perspectacles” (get it? perspective & spectacles). My husband and I had a wonderful talk this morning. We shared what we were each going to do with our Lent. He asked how he could support me. Joy. He told he made a thoughtless comment about me to someone the other day and asked for my forgiveness. Joy. My son gave me the biggest hug this morning when he woke up. Joy. I have food in my fridge. Joy. I have a God who loves me. Joy.
Many consider Lent to be a depressing time. It’s actually one of my favorite seasons of the Church year. Why? Because self-examination is good for us. Not just to “do whatever feels good,” but to think about what is really good for us. And realizing through this self-examination that everything isn’t just “about” us either. Our thoughts and actions have real consequences that ripple out to others. And Lent also prepares us to receive with even greater joy the ultimate gift of Easter – when love conquered sin and death. Plus, our culture hasn’t figured out a way to “sell” Lent yet, so it’s generally free of the consumerism that surrounds Christmas and Easter.
So blessed Lent to all of you who observe – and prayers for you on however you plan to take this journey.
Soli Deo Gloria.