Most of us, even those who weren’t raised in churches who recognized the traditional church calendar and its seasons, have a basic idea of what Lent is. One of my friends on Twitter sent a picture of what they were giving up for Lent and it was the lint out of their dryer trap. That person’s idea of Lent is fuzzy at best (now that’s funny) but at least they’re making an effort.
Some approach Lent as a time of denial but almost all of us know that what is supposed to be happening for these roughly 40 days is self-reflection. It’s a time for looking inward to see the state of our heart, mind and soul. Ultimately, as we look forward to raucously celebrating the defeat of death (and if you haven’t planned a raucous celebration, please consider adjusting your plans so that it is so) first we do a check up regarding what Jesus indicated was of first and second importance.
So with one eye on the party that’s soon to erupt we ask “How am I doing when it comes to loving God with everything I have, and what about how I love my neighbor?”
This year for Lent my guiding scripture has been Psalm 139. It’s an absolute wonder of a song that concentrates first on the importance of how and by who we were created but then transitions to the sort of reflection that is a perfect navigator into the inside of who we are. It’s such a personal an individual reflection that maybe I should say it’s a great guide into who “I” am…who “you” are.
The first verse shows how specifically useful this passage can be for this journey inside. The song-writer writes “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.”(Psalm 139:1) To be clear then, regardless of what we give up, we’re not giving it up first and foremost as some sort of sacrifice to appease God…we give things up for the benefit of ourselves. Since God is already completely aware of everything about us, this journey inside is about letting ourselves in and making ourselves aware of….well, ourselves.
The most helpful practice I’ve instituted in the past few Lenten seasons is asking the difficult questions. The difficult questions are the one’s I try to avoid about myself…sometimes they’re dark and always they’re ones that I don’t voice to anyone else…the one’s that I push down and avoid.
Sometimes it’s questions about God. Sometimes they’re questions about my key relationships. Sometimes they are just questions about me. Here’s what I’ve found; good relationships can weather difficult questions and great relationships necessitate them. Secondly if I want my relationships to mature, grow and be healthy (and in regard to questioning myself if I want to be a healthy, mature and growing person) asking these kinds of questions are amazingly helpful and indispensable.
So what’s that one nagging question you need to address in yourself…that one thing about you (me) that just won’t go away? I know what mine is, in fact I’m asking the same question that I asked last year. I won’t share here since it’s just for me.
What’s that one thing that’s standing in the way of relational maturation with your spouse, family member or friend? Sure there’s probably more than one, but don’t go crazy…start slowly.
What’s that one thing about God that just bugs you? God isn’t scared of your questions and you’re not going to get zapped or anything for asking it. (See “Jesus is a Friend of Mine” video for more helpful information on getting zapped.) By the way, the reason it’s about letting yourself in is because God already knows your question.
Love asks the difficult questions. So If I’m going to really love my neighbor, love requires a question.
The guiding passage I’m using ends with the songwriter asking one of these “going inside” questions:
David or his songwriter says:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
What questions do you need to ask?