Lent is coming up this Wednesday (March 6, 2019). As a follower of Jesus who has spent most of my time in low church baptist or non-denominational settings, participating in Lent makes no sense. Isn’t that for Catholics? Never-mind the fact that this tradition is shared by many other Christian traditions.
There are many reasons why lent is attractive to me. The Christian calendar as a whole has become a way of resisting the cultural liturgies that shape and form me to become less like Jesus. But this year, there is one dominant reason why I want to participate in Lent with the rest of the church.
Love and Desires
My angst in life is to live into the abundant kind of life that only Jesus can provide. A life lived securely in the love of God revealed in Jesus. But here is what I am learning. In the school of Jesus, that is, the school of learning how to be a genuine human full of love and wisdom, I have to reckon with the disorderliness of my desires.
Can I be honest here? My relationship with my desires (wants) is a mess. Over the last year, I’ve begun learning how to discern what I truly want, no matter how scandalous it is; to own it as my own and then share it without shame. Now I’m at the place where I want to learn how to be present with my wants with Jesus in order to have them healed and formed rightly.
Lent as a spiritual practice creates an opportunity to come face to face with what or who I really want or desire. Richard Rohr says, “All spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be more fully present to what is. These disciplines exist so that we can see what is, see who we are, and see what is happening.
Spiritual disciplines give us access to who we really are as we participate in them. Which then creates space for us to encounter the love of God in a unique way. In a culture that trains us to define ourselves by what or who we desire, most of which is not the God revealed in Jesus. Being denied or delayed what we want is high treason in the court of our hearts. Which makes it impossible to love people when it really matters.
Jesus was able to love people to the point of death because he had a healthy relationship with his wants. From the Wilderness to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was able to walk in faithfulness not by suppressing or ignoring his desires but by entrusting himself with his desires to the love of God. He was able to not get what he wanted because his heart was saturated with a sense of the Father’s love. He knew that whether his wants were delayed (bread and water in the wilderness) or denied (drinking the cup), he would be cared for and satisfied by his Father.
Imagine that? Learning how to be honest with our desires and being willing to have them delayed or denied because our wants were so bathed in the love of God.
Lent imitates the 40 day fast of Jesus in the wilderness where I learn to say no to my appetite for food or to be in the know on social media. With the body of Jesus, I’m willingly making myself weak so that I can learn in a concrete way that I am not satisfied by bread alone but by the word of God, Jesus. In this, the Spirit of Jesus enables us to see and live into a reality that wasn’t accessible to us before.