Lent: Go Slow
While we often talk about what we are giving up for Lent I’m not always sure about the practice. I guess it works for me if you can flip it into a positive statement about what you are taking on for Lent. In my mind lent is about taking on the cross in a journey with Christ to Jerusalem. This often necessitates some kind of “giving up” but only a giving up that deepens our journey. The question then I get is: what is the gain in what you have given up? If you give something up that leads to life – then you are most likely on target with Christ’s call to follow in his way.
We do not follow an acetic God for whom sacrifice is about self-negation for its own sake – at least I don’t think so. I think we follow a God wants to bring a balance between our loves of self, God, and mostly neighbor. This means we have may have to give up some fascination with our own convenience, privilege, entitlement, power, and glorification in order to do this on behalf of the other. But what is more important is that second part… what it’s on behalf of. Perhaps this is what Jesus means when he lauds those who pray and practice in secret rather than for all to see. The ones who do it for all to see that he calls out are still actually about self-promotion. There is no communal gain to their pious practices.
So for me I have to ask myself – what is the communal gain to what I’m “giving up?”
So here is what I’m trying to do this year. It’s a practice I received from James Bryan Smith’s Apprentice Series of books which I highly recommend to any small group or pair of readers (Good and Beautiful God, Good and Beautiful Life, Good and Beautiful Community). The spiritual practice is summed up as “choosing the slow lane.” And that is really what it is. He describes it as picking the longest line at the grocery store, driving behind that driver who is going 5 mph under the speed limit, intentionally scheduling a long meal with friends, making sure to arrive places early so we aren’t in a rush to get there. (He warns we actually need to practice margin first – we need first to learn to schedule less in our day so we CAN go slow. That is practice I have working at for a while now – I’m not necessary good at it, but it’s a journey.)
I’m going to practice at this during this Lenten season (and beyond, why stop a good thing) – not just doing it but doing so without the resulting rise in blood pressure. Because my time isn’t so valuable that everyone else should get out of my way. Because sometimes when we slow down we notice things we wouldn’t have seen before (a person hiding in a tree who wants to meet us, a nameless person who needs some healing recognition of their personhood, a person’s who testimony will become an encouragement to us for renewed ministry). So if you want to name it as a giving up – I’m giving up the need to put my timeline ahead of everyone else’s. I’m giving up the sense that I need to be in hurry. But if you want to flip to a positive and life-giving statement: I’m taken on the practices of slowness so I might be able to find out what blessings I’ve been missing out on, what blessings I’ve been denying others, and what blessings God has in store for me… going slow.
What are you giving up/taking on as you journey in way of Christ to the cross… and beyond?