Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's Lent got to do ..got to do with it?

Hi, my name is Nia.

I've been trying to follow this Christ figure since I was six. That's when I decided I wanted to "give my heart to Jesus." And, I grew up in a fairly charismatic, evangelical circle. My family moved often because of my dad's job, but we tended to join faith communities that were of that similar vein.

I grew up with Christmas and Easter, with youth retreats and Bible drills, and with avoiding hard questions. But, they grew like kudzu in the heat of July.

Post high school, I got involved with parachurch college ministry, and loved it's fresh, accepting, and sometimes seemingly controversial ways. No, we were not handling snakes, but there was an emphasis on knowing Jesus, where you were, and letting transformation take place without trying to fit yourself into a mold. And that meant we were messy. Midway through university I had been going to a church similar to those in which I had found myself in throughout my childhood. But, after studying and serving a ministry in Spain for a semester, I came back disillusioned by mainstream Christianity as I had known it to be.

I am not saying that everything is wrong about the Church. But, those doubts, hurts, experiences, and questions that had been rooting and knotting began to push out my cultural bias and desire a larger understanding of the Bible and why we're all really here.

I did not grow up with Lent.

What's Lent got to do with it? I was given a book a year ago called The Accidental Anglican. Towards the end of university, I began attending an Anglican Mission (formerly Vineyard, so yes, a little unique). So, when I received this book, I had been going to this church for two years and was drawn by its simple, yet challenging look at faith. One thing mentioned in this book and that I resonate with is a focus on history, and understanding where we came from. That is a goal and purpose of the liturgy. It also recognizes the beauty of those people who have struggled with this faith before us.

And, that's why I'm struggling through Lent.

I first tried Lent in college. I gave up chocolate. I lasted 7 days, and then decided the amount I "feasted" on Sunday defeated the whole purpose so I just began feasting everyday and forgot about the whole thing. I've been retrying it the last few years, thinking more honestly about what and why I'm trying to fast.

What's the point of this whole practice then? Honestly, I'm still learning. But, as difficult as it is, I connect with the pushing towards discomfort, the wrestling, and the living in darkness. Lent requires me to believe that God is more powerful than the evil, and that the evil is still very real and I am not immune to it simply because I quote scripture and put on my best Sunday face.

Lent points me toward my need for Jesus and others. It's not about giving up for the sake of giving up, but rather, it empties so be filled by something real. The thing about emptiness is that creates space for anything to live in, so the temptation to be pulled in any direction is immense. I've realized addiction is second nature to me, so I have to fight it. And, I fail often.

But, when I do, resurrection is on the other end.

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