Written for Makers Church
Last year for Lent, I capriciously decided to give up pizza. It was what I then sized up to be a solid Lenten fast – I ate pizza almost every week but it wasn’t a cornerstone of my diet, it was semi-burdensome, it wouldn’t come up much in conversation, it was totally doable. That was until I went on a date with a guy who I’d butted heads with over faith, and he was hellbent on us getting pizza that breezy night in February.
Instead, we had BBQ.
If you’re not familiar, Lent is a long-standing practice in the Christian tradition of giving up something or taking on something extra during the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s a practice of mourning and letting go, of pressing into what actually matters. The forty days mimic the fast of Jesus in the desert before he launched his ministry, and are meant to prepare us to seriously celebrate when Jesus kicks death in the booty and resurrects on Easter Sunday.
Last year, 40 days of a pizzaless existence certainly didn’t kill me, but I was actually stunned at the way God had used this little fast to put a monumental conversation in my path. I had to actually attempt to explain the value of this millennia-old practice of fasting to someone who put absolutely no stock in it. I had grown up in a liturgical tradition, where the waxing and waning of the church calendar determined the pattern of one’s days, but in modern culture at large, it’s hard to characterize Lent without it seeming anything but outdated and arbitrary.
So why do I do it? Why do we – Makers Church – a community of reinvention, continue to live into this practice of rigidity?
Oddly enough, it’s just that rigid continuity that gets me stoked on Lent. Lent is a beautiful time for us to embrace the connectedness of our faith, from the millions of people this year who are surrendering a little something to leave space for more Spirit, to the generations of believers that came before us, shedding the weight of all that worldly stuff as they went. And Lent is a solid time (with international accountability might I add) to commit to picking something up or letting something go and telling people about it. It’s taking your faith out of your head and letting it sink into your body. It’s letting Jesus put his handprints all over your routine and rearrange your priorities like Scrabble letters.
Lent is built into the church calendar as a season of sobriety, of quieting, of mourning. It assures those of us that jealously ache during a celebration that God never intended everything to be a party. That, as Ecclesiastes says, there are times to weep. Times to let go. Times to give up something you cherish at the feet of someone who cherishes you more.
And in that same acknowledgment of the seasons, Lent reminds us that hardship was never meant to last. These forty days of contemplation and solitude have the happiest imaginable ending – Lent sets us up for Jesus. Chowing down on that first slice of post-Easter Domino’s is just the tiniest taste of how glorious it feels to take part in resurrection. That’s the path Jesus cleared for us, the feast He’s setting out for us.
So if you’re ready to mix up your pattern of faith, give Lent a shot. Give up your favorite food. Volunteer once a week. Join a community group. Read a book. Ditch your Instagram. Go on a daily prayer walk. Consider things that it might be time to shelve, or time to incorporate. Take part in something big – like billions of people big – and watch for the big stuff God is putting in your way. We’ll save you a slice on the other side.