Lent: Making Room

6 03 2011

Tomorrow Christians of the East will observe Clean Monday– a day on which they will clean their houses as a sign and symbol of the spiritual cleaning they are about to embark upon during Lent. Two days later, Christians of the West will observe Ash Wednesday– at their services they will be marked with ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and the minister will say, “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel!”  Many Christians, both East and West will tackle the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a way to make more space in their souls for God.  Others will “give something up” in an effort to participate in Lenten discipline.  Some give up TV or coffee or candy bars, while others attempt to eliminate other pesky addictions they may have.

Of course, all of this sort of thing is terribly dangerous.  So dangerous, in fact, that some Christians and denominations discourage and even ban such activities.  It is all considered as an attempt to win points with God or as an opportunity to exhibit spiritual pride– as in, “I’m a better Christian than you because I didn’t watch any TV during Lent!”   Works righteousness, pridefulness, and legalism are real pit-falls that lay in the path of the Lenten sojourner.

 

The truth is that these dangers will not be any less for the Christian who elects to avoid altogether the sorts of spiritual disciplines associated with Lent.  One can, for example, take pride in the fact that she does not need to fast in order to be a more spiritual person.  Actually, the argument FOR taking up fasting (or silence, or simplicity, or almsgiving, etc.) is much stronger than the dangers that can often accompany it.  You see, disciples of Jesus, as a whole, have never abandoned such spiritual disciplines despite the obvious danger they pose and the abuse all too often made of them.  (A truth we must all learn is that just because something in Christianity has been misused and abused does NOT necessitate its removal from our midst– otherwise we would have to get rid of preaching, singing, and even the Bible, for have all been misused over and over!)

 

If your goal is to make more space in your life for Christ so that He can bring more of Himself into you, then your mindset is in the right place for taking up Lenten disciplines.  For myself, by God’s grace, I hope to take up some fasting, and increased praying; and I also hope to greatly decrease the time I spend connected to various forms of media, especially TV and the internet.  By this I hope to gain more of Christ and His freedom.  I want to be free from the dictates of my belly and my need to be pacified through entertainment.  I want to be free from seeking after everything else in order that I might feel validated, important or significant, when there is only One Source from which I can truly receive these and more (and I hope the effects will spill over into my struggle with anger and impatience!).  The danger of legalism and pride are real, but they can no longer be allowed to keep me from attempting the discipline of fasting food and entertainment.

 

So, it would be best to stop placing our Lenten focus on what we are “giving up” and realize that it is all a miniscule price to pay in order to be more closely united with the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit– and to live life to the full as a free citizen in the Kingdom of God.  This Lent, I pray for us all that in all we endeavor to undertake we would know the Lord’s joy, AND that we would see strongholds of hell, sin, and the flesh come crashing down in ruins.  May our chains of addiction fall from our wrists and ankles and may the iron bars of our captivity burst open leading us out onto the green spaces of the Kingdom.  So be it.

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