Lent, a season of fasting and penitence for forty weekdays in preparation for Easter, began this year on February 22, 2012 and will end on Sat, April 7, 2012. For whatever reasons, it is my childhood religion’s reminder that giving up a guilty pleasure – a.k.a. Idol(s) is a punishment that I deserve and will put me in better standing with “God.” In church-speak, fasting and penitence are necessary mortifications, a putting to death, of the flesh.
I toyed with the idea of what I could give up or take up this liturgical season -- Not that my foregoing or embracing pleasure or disciplines would impress God. But, before Ash Wednesday ended, I ate the first temptation – being careful to cut the brownie in half, however. And I now have blown three beautiful opportunities to resume a walking routine.
The bad thing about Lent is that it puts me on a guilt trip; that is also its chief benefit. Forty days of going without a few pleasures, and forty days of doing what I won’t “naturally” do is less than 10% of one year. Why, one might argue that “Lent” is simply a reasonable tithe! But, I have read what God thinks about tithes! (See Malachi 3:8-11)
So, “Final Judgment Week” on American Idol stirred up all kinds of emotions when its 42 contestants had to take a long walk into the judges’ presence to hear their fate. Those 24 souls, whose performances were consistent and excellent, escaped elimination. No excuses were accepted -- like the ones I could make for giving into my guilty pleasure or eschewing the benefits of a brisk walk.
I think more about life after life every year – Christians believe in a life after the grave, anchoring all our hope to Christ’s empty grave. And we believe we will face the Living God as either our Judge, or our Defense Counsel. My life has been inconsistent and less than excellent on too many days. Even if I could rise to make a plea, what possible defense could I make to a holy God for my faults, failures, and sins?
Forty week days is little enough time to ponder what my inconsistent and lame performance cost my Defender and Friend.(See Isaiah 50-53)
Ed Welch writes of the idols “Lent” can reveal:
An ‘idol-hunt’ would turn me introspective and self-analytical. It would make me mistreat you. Faith makes me extraspective and God-relational. Love makes me extraspective and other-relational. Faith and love draw us out of sin’s enmeshing self-obsession (including enmeshment in obsessive introspection). So come forth. Our Savior gives us his own joy, and joy is an interpersonal emotion. He throws open the doors to the fresh air and bright light of a most kind grace. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Idols of the Heart )