Thoughts on Lent
As Lent approaches, I am thinking of approaching the season differently this year. Or, maybe I should say that I will be slightly trying out a slightly different approach. At least I hope I will. If we can’t be honest at the beginning of Lent, I mean, what’s the point?
I’ve been dabbling in Rowan Williams’ new book, Christ: The Heart of Creation, and one of the main and daring points he seems to be making is that God, in Christ, has actually changed our capacity to live as spiritually healthy human beings. Those of us who commune with Christ—hang our hats with him, as it were—are actually being given an enhanced human nature!
Isn’t that the strangest thing?
All this time—I’m sure the rest of you are way ahead of me on this—all these many Lents, I’ve come to the season with this sense of “Well, here we go again, I’m one of the people in the crowd who yelled ‘Crucify him, Crucify him! (only I’m near the back of the crowd and saying it just loud enough to make sure everyone knows I’m one of the crowd), so I’d better be sure to spend time realizing how much better Christ is than me and try to do some nice or good stuff which is probably out of character.”
But here comes Rowan Williams saying, “You’re not the sluggard you think you are, or at least not quite that sluggardly (Don’t you love that word?). You are, well, enhanced!” Of course, Paul said it a bit earlier: “When anyone is joined to Christ, she or he is a new being; the old has gone, the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17) But what did he know?
Have you ever had someone look you in the eye—maybe holding your hands—and say, you are a beautiful, gifted, and good person? I sure hope you have. Or something like that. Whenever anyone says something like that to me, I’ve wanted to BE that person—that is, I’ve wanted to activate that picture of myself, to enact that enhanced human. When I used to see a therapist to work out a few kinks I’d developed over 50 years or so, she used to look me in the eye every now and then and tell me how beautiful, gifted and good I was, and you know what? For at least a week or so I actually believed her and sort of/kind of tried to live into that image of myself.
Crazy, huh? And, the funny thing is that when I took her good news with me out the door, I was far more ready to look at those one or two teensy character defects that occasionally popped up in my life. Hint to self: During this Lent, maybe try to remember who you really are in Christ before opening that little catalogue of very minor dysfunctions that are stored away in your deep psyche.
And in case you haven’t had someone look you in the eyes lately and tell you how good, beautiful and gifted you are, imagine your very dear friend Jesus saying that very thing to you to you the next time to take Communion at Grace Church. And digest it.
And, remember to do that especially during Lent.