It's a common misconception that Lent is about self-improvement. Somehow a
half-remembered custom of giving things up has been mixed in with our society's
obsession with self-help and self-improvement, so that we've blurred the true
meaning of the fast into a rather individualistic concept, more like a New Year
Resolution to detox or de-clutter.
Lent is not about giving up luxuries, not about losing weight or gaining other benefits, not about food per se, not about de-cluttering or Feng Shui or about any other kind of feel-good, de-toxifying exercise. In the end, it's about denying yourself some of the essentials of everyday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-aligning ourselves with God and his purposes in our world;
about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any
And neither is Lent about achievement. We cannot earn God's love, nor
save ourselves. If our Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the
need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and
unshakeable knowledge that we are human - we are but dust, and to dust we shall
return - but that to be human is enough, under the loving gaze of God.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
During Lent this year I am reducing/not drinking caffeinated coffee. I dropped down from my usual three cups of coffee a day to two for the first week - no real deal. As of Thursday, I've been down to one - now that's been a bigger deal but not in the way I would expect. On Thursday, I realised that I had just drunk my one coffee for the day as I finished the coffee. Today was a crazy day which involved being up early to do work for a 9am meeting. I had my first coffee at 7am. When I was in a cafe for my meeting it didn't occur to me in the slightest that I was doing anything strange ordering my normal coffee. In fact it took me until about 1pm to realise that I'd just had two coffees. I was not stressed about it - but it lead me on some interesting journeys of thoughts - how easy do we fall into things which we choose not to do/how easy is it to not live the life we have chosen and lots of other thoughts. The process of choosing to give up caffeinated coffee for Lent has been as interesting as anything else - the "decision" just happening "in" me. It's like it was something I "just knew" to do. And it isn't so much about what I'm giving up on this occasion nor even about not depending on something - it's much more about choosing life and choosing to remove something from my life that is not good for me. It's also been interesting that just as strongly as my decision to not have caffeinated coffee, was my decision to keep having decaf - the rituals of coffee in my life are ones I love and think are very healthy, so I've kept the healthy aspect and am choosing against the unhealthy. It's with all that in mind I read this post from Maggi Dawn about Lent - words which I've read before but are much more poignant right now as God does significant work in me around relaxing in him and in myself being human and as God calls me away from the idol that self-improvement has been in my life and continues to call me and lead me more into a life that is lived and on about his kingdom - now that's a life worth living.