Creating Lent

Drawing Hands by MC Escher, 1948
Drawing Hands by MC Escher, 1948

Over the past couple of days, seminary classmate and colleague in ministry, Teri Peterson, and I have been having a good discussion on Lenten practices. While I stick to this view on how Presbyterians can best observe the season, Terri makes an excellent point about how Reformed Christians get too caught up in the busyness of doing-doing-doing, thus ignoring the importance of rest and discernment.

It certainly makes sense from a theological standpoint to put more emphasis on how we ought to give of ourselves to follow Christ and build God’s kingdom, as opposed to giving up trivial things like chocolate and beer.  And yet, there is a real danger in making a commitment to do more during Lent when it’s abundantly clear (at least in the PC(USA)) that many church professionals and congregations are doing much in the ways of justice already.  Instead of being in the midst of Jesus’ ministry-filled journey to the cross, we are burned out and lying face down in the sandy road to Jerusalem after only taken a couple of steps. Even active ministry or the joy of serving others in the name of God’s love and mercy can be too much of a good thing.

So then what? I pondered this much of last evening before going to bed and this morning as I got into the shower. As the water cascaded over my head, I recalled how Teri said in our discussion that giving up things for Lent can be meaningful to one’s faith if it “makes space.”

“Makes space…That’s it!” The light bulb went off, it became much clearer as I thought about Terri’s words as well as a podcast I heard over the weekend on God Complex Radio.

The focus shouldn’t be on what we give up nor on what we give to, but on making or creating space–an act of being and receiving more so than doing and giving.

And when I say creating space, I specifically mean creating space for sabbath and sabbath practices.

If we create MORE space for rest and renewal, i.e. sleeping, making/looking at art, running, reading, praying, listening to/playing music, wood-working, playing with our kids on the playground, sitting on the front porch talking to a friend for a couple of hours, going to a movie, etc…then we automatically do LESS of the things that keep us busy-busy-busy-doing-doing-doing.

We tend to get lost in the sabbath practices and make time for things that truly matter–things that sustain us and give us life; tha refresh and reshape us; that remind us who we are and whose we are. Instantly, we do away with or fast from the things that weigh us down and cause burn out, i.e. over-working and the bad habits that can come with it like unhealthy eating, shorter tempers, worry, frustration, impatience, and so on.

By creating space, we just might allow room for God in the Spirit to dwell inside our minds, our hearts, our bodies and souls–freeing us from the trappings of busyness and burn-out so that we can fully experience a journey of…

pain and joy

sinfulness and sacredness

destruction and re-creation

brokenness and redemption

death and resurrection


4 thoughts on “Creating Lent”

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