In a funny advertisement for a college chapel series, my friend Dr. Isaac Gaff wrote "Come and experience the ancient church's original 40 days of purpose." Too funny, too true. Lent can be a great season of intentionality, if one is able to get past mechanical practices and traditionalism (note the ism)!
Last year, I was inspired by a Amy Laura Hall's guest post on J. Kameron Carter's blog concerning Lent and her pastoral concerns over the self-image of women. In the post, she acknowledged that Lent has historically been about self-denial, asceticism through fasting, and most often the denial has to do with one's diet. She, however, aware of the cultural images so violently thrusted upon women suggested not self-denial but a kind of indulgence. In a brilliant pastoral move, she challenged that some should eat chocolate for Lent. It opened my eyes to the fact that in some cases/contexts self-denial in anticipation for Easter may be detrimental to one's spiritual health.
Though my eyes are opened to more creative approaches to Lent, I still think there are many cases in which self-denial would be impactful for those of us living in an age of negligent consumerism, ecological decay, and unjust economic forces. Below is a broad list of suggestions for Lent. I hope these will inspire you to think contextually and faithfully as you anticipate Easter this year!
Lent with an eye toward caring for Creation:
- Commit to composting everything you can.
- Commit to recycling.
- Ride the bus.
- Eat only grass fed beef or other free range meat.
- Don't eat meat at all.
- Buy from a local farmer.
Lent with an eye toward economic justice:
- Inspect one item a week that you purchase regularly. Find out where it is made, who makes it, the conditions in which it was made etc. It is hard to know about our products, but we can be intentional and discover the truths bit by bit if we care enough.
- Shop locally.
Lent with an eye toward fasting:
- Give up alcohol.
- Give up eating out.
*** If you have an image problem or eating disorder, follow Dr. Hall's advice - eat chocolate! Friends, we must love ourselves for God does.
- Turn off the television. Read the Sermon on the Mount or spiritual classics until Easter.
Lent with an eye toward pride:
- Commit to stop saying "I Know" in response to people in conversations.
- Practice not interrupting people when talking to them.
- Pray, daily, for someone you do not like.
- Commit to no complaints about your own life.
- Attempt to not offer your opinions without being asked.
There are so many things you could do in light of the world that we live in. If you commit to anyone of these or anything else and find yourself failing....begin new, start over. God is gracious, right?
As these commitments get challenging or even when you succeed, let them be reminders of God's unfathomable grace represented by Christ's passion and resurrection. Allow them to turn your thoughts into prayers of joy and thanksgiving.
Grace and Peace.