Well, it's Lent. At least I think it is. Seems like I read it somewhere. Or... No, wait, I think it begins tomorrow. I never know about that Catholic stuff, you know? Seems like not many other Christians care too much about it, either.
I grew up in a Fundamentalist church, one that encouraged me to cross the street if I saw a priest or nun walking toward me. And I did just that. I was an arrogant bigot, and all I can say in my defense is that I was young and didn't know better. But I thank God that he freed me from that sort of nonsense a long time ago. And yet, there's this Lent business. Isn't that as Catholic as priests and nuns?
As an "evangelical Christian," I haven't known much about Lent, and haven't cared. And I suspect that I have a lot of company in that attitude. But I'm having some doubts.
I think Lent is a 40-day period of fasting that immediately precedes Easter. It's 40 days in memory of the time Jesus was in the wilderness, and it's deprivation in memory of Jesus' experience in the wilderness and his death. (I think that's right, but someone will probably correct me if it's not.)
Lately, I have been thinking more about Lent. Not enough to practice it, understand, but enough to wonder if I'm missing something helpful.
It's a sad fact that most people who call themselves Christians practice their faith as though their primary guiding principal were their own convenience. It's like we give God whatever there is left over of our lives after we take care of things that are really important to us. God is certainly not central in this sort of life.
I wonder if that's not why we ignore things like Lent, which require us to voluntarily inconvenience ourselves, so that we might grow closer in our relationship with God. Lent's inconvenient. And, while we're on the subject, we might point out that God is, too. Right?
American Christians miss something of great value by living their self-centered, convenience-oriented lives. They miss intimacy with God. They miss many of the richest blessings from God. And they miss growing into a deeper relationship and a faith that they find deeply rewarding and profoundly meaningful.
Perhaps Lent isn't such a bad idea after all.